Friday, April 13, 2012

Mayor drops hammer on unruly speakers

1 ejected from council meeting, another threatened with ejection

Express Staff Writer

Fritz Haemmerle

Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle set a new policy Monday to keep order in the Hailey City Council chambers. From now on, he will give one warning with the gavel before ejecting unruly speakers.

During his first three months in office, Haemmerle has expelled one person and threatened to expel another for "disruptive" or "inappropriate" speaking.

On Monday, Haemmerle announced the two-strikes-and-your-out policy.

"It's my job to maintain order," he said in an interview. "Anyone can speak whatever is on their mind, but when they become disruptive, they're out of order."

The meeting was attended not only by Police Chief Jeff Gunter, who's usually there, but also by an additional uniformed Hailey police officer. Haemmerle said the additional officer was ordered to attend Monday's council meeting because the agenda included a public comment period on a proposed annexation ordinance.

"That was the last time [disruptive speaking took place], on the topic of the annexation ordinance," Haemmerle said. "I was anticipating having another problem."


Two months ago, Hailey resident Donald Lappin was escorted by Gunter—at Haemmerle's direction—to the exit of the council chambers for pitching himself as a promoter for hire for the Hailey Rodeo Arena. Haemmerle said at the time that he thought the pitch was inappropriate, and called for Gunter when Lappin continued talking.

"I had already told him before the meeting to talk to [City Administrator] Heather Dawson about the very topic," he said. "You can't use the public comment period to start pitching yourself."

On March 19, Haemmerle got into a heated exchange with Hailey resident Bill Hughes, who questioned how the city was using taxpayer funds. Haemmerle threatened to have Hughes ejected from the meeting unless he agreed to comport himself properly and constrain his public comments to the topic under consideration.

"We come in here and you bully and intimidate, Fritz," Hughes said.

"Billy was kind of ranting," Haemmerle said in the interview. "You're absolutely free to state what is on your mind on a topic, but if we're on topic A and you're on topic Z, I would say you're out of order. We were talking about the annexation ordinance."

Haemmerle added that taking personal shots at people and exceeding stated time limits for public comments would also not be tolerated.

"People have a free right to speak, but they do not have a free right to be disruptive," he said.

Tony Evans:

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