Warns Against Something that Never Took Place
When CVB Chairman Dewitt Hicks took the reigns back over (he had been chairman previously before George Swales resigned. RW) at the Columbus/Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau board, he issued a stern warning to those who would disrupt the proceedings in the future.
Problem is, the example that Hicks used to issue such a tough warning…never happened.
During the August meeting of the CVB, Columbus resident Betty Miller attended the meeting. She complained, aloud, during the meeting about not being able to hear the board members as they spoke. During discussion of the media being barred from the July board meeting, Miller also spoke out from the audience and said, “It made you look like fools. Absolute fools!”
During the September meeting, one in which Miller did not attend, Hicks apparently made reference to those outbursts when he said, “Last time we had a spectator who interrupted the meeting three times. Two times defaming the board, and the third time using profanity. That is a crime. This board will not tolerate that. Next time we’ll recess the meeting and have that person arrested. Anybody who wants to appear before the board and be on the agenda, we welcome your comments, your criticism, or anything you have to say, but we will not tolerate that.”
After reviewing recordings of the meeting and discussing the charge by Hicks with Packet Senior Reporter Brian Jones (who covered the news story of the meeting for The Packet. RW), also with Commercial Dispatch reporter Jeff Clark and Real Story Editor Chris Hannon…none of us remember or heard Miller utter a profanity of any kind. (Unless Mr. Hicks considers ‘fools’ a profanity. RW). Granted, Mr. Hicks didn’t refer to Miller by name…but that’s the only thing that he possibly could have been referring to at that meeting. Miller did not use profanity.
While constant audience interruptions in any public meeting are certainly a headache and need to be dealt with, Mr. Hicks should be very careful at what he alleges. The threat of arrest is serious and dangerous, especially when someone is innocent of any such behavior.
I realize, also, that Mr. Hicks has been ill lately. He probably didn’t understand what Miller had actually said. But he had a full month between meetings to get clarification of what was actually said.
No one likes to be threatened with arrest, however. Just ask Packet reporter/art director John Douglas. [See this week’s cover story] Or former Packet owner Roger Larsen. Larsen was rewarded $10,000 once in a civil suit against the city of Columbus for being wrongfully arrested.
Paying out $10,000 of taxpayer money to someone for violating their civil rights is a hefty fine to pay for making a mistake against a citizen or media person. I might like a little of that action myself!
Ron Williams can be reached by email at Ronsings2you@aol.com0