Back in 1791, Congress adopted into law a codicil that would become the first of what we today know as the Bill of Rights…the First Amendment. That law states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” So popular is this law, that in 1941, American artist Norman Rockwell, as part of his ‘Four Freedoms’ series, painted what has become an American standard of liberty, entitled ‘Freedom of Speech’.
On the evening of April 17 at their regular session, members of the Edon Village Council found themselves on the receiving end of a lesson in civics, courtesy of resident Ms. Eileen Kannel. Although it lacked the Rockwell touch, Ms. Kannel exercised her First Amendment right of free speech to a tee, employing it to call sarcastic and bickering members of Council on the carpet.
Although Councilors Chip Hulbert and Andy Ledyard dissented on the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, Council did give approval to three measures. Ordinance 02-17 called for a change in wage structure, and was approved by Mayor Duane Thiel, breaking the tie between Councilors Gale Horn, Dick Chapin and Lee Lawrence, and dissenting votes from Councilors Hulbert, Ledyard and Mike Lirot. Under suspended rules of reading, Council unanimously approved Ordinance 04-17, changing income tax distribution to 80 percent to the general fund, as well as Ordinance 05-17 dealing with the employee handbook. Council took up the discussion of vacating an alley on Franklin Street, but no action was undertaken.
The fireworks began while Council was revisiting Ordinance 06-17, prohibiting the cultivation, processing and retail dispensing of medical marijuana within Village limits. A motion to suspend the rules of reading for immediate passage was quashed by the no votes of Councilors Lirot, Hulbert and Ledyard. A call for a vote for a first reading of the measure was again met with dissent from Councilors Lirot, Hulbert and Ledyard. Village Solicitor Tom Thompson advised that there is no need for a vote for a first reading, as a measure is not being passed. Councilor Dick Chapin then said, “There’s one thing to know about it, though. Edon is the only one who hasn’t passed this ordinance in the county.” Councilor Hulbert turned to Chapin and said, “What does that have to do with anything?” Flustered, Chapin replied, “It shows we’ve got a bunch of pot-heads.” The tenor of discussion then quickly turned from debate, to sarcasm and name-calling.
The comment, “Put that in the paper…we’re all pot-heads,” was made, to which Councilor Chapin replied, “You said it.” Councilor Ledyard laughed and replied, “I buy mine from you, Dick. Don’t you know that?” As civility decayed, the facial expressions of Ms. Kannel, and her friend Dee Henry, began to reflect dismay. Councilor Hulbert turned again to Councilor Chapin and said, “The state has set up regulations on everything. Have you read any of it?” Chapin’s reply was quick and curt. saying, “I don’t care. I don’t want it growing in my back yard.” Hulbert replied, “It’s not going to be grown in your back yard,” and Ledyard added, “It is pretty much growing in your back yard…right next to the trailer court.” A clearly frustrated Chapin replied, “Then what’s the matter of passing the law not to have it…”, adding a derogatory name to the end of the sentence.
A brief respite was given by Councilor Lirot, who noted that advertisements for the sale of the Metaldyne facility say that it is not zoned. Discussion of the matter was brief before it ended with a sarcastic, “I know what to do; just put a marijuana plant in there.” “That’s about how bright you are,” Chapin said, to which Ledyard replied, “You’d better believe it, brighter than you.” More name calling ensued, followed by more comments of, “Put that in the paper.” When Chapin made a vulgar gesture to Ledyard though, Ms. Kannel had had enough, and raised her voice.
“Excuse me,” Ms. Kannel said over the din. “I have something to say. This is ridiculous, what’s going on here.” Some of the Councilors then snickered as Ms. Kannel continued. “You guys are running our town…supposedly. I would not want ANYONE from outside to come in here and see this, the actions of any of you.” As a complete silence fell over the Councilors, Ms. Kannel continued, “We voted you in to take care of things, and all it’s been is a disaster ever since the new ones (Councilors) came on. You’ve got this tribe over here that votes against everything. This tribe over here votes however they’ll vote…for it or against it. It doesn’t matter. You’re a disgrace. Just like you, carrying on there, laughing and saying. ‘Put this in the paper. Do this. Do that.’ What if they would put it in the paper? Do you want our town made fun of? No one wants to come here. This used to be a fun place to be. It’s not anymore. It’s terrible, and you guys need to grow up. If you’re going to be on this, then you need to grow up, or get out! We’ve been to how many of these meetings, and nothing is ever decided. Nothing…it’s a constant battle.”
Councilor Hulbert replied to Ms. Kannel, “…what I do is when something comes up, I go around and ask people, and get their opinion.” “That’s fine,” Ms. Hulbert responded. “But when you come in here, you guys act like idiots. I’m sorry, but you do. You’re against one another all the time. Nobody wants to help anybody. You people should be in here working for this town. Instead, everybody is talking behind your backs about how dumb everything is that you guys try to do. We voted you in to take care of things, and you’re not taking care of anything. All you do is cause problems, all the time.” “There’s four seats coming up in November,” Councilor Ledyard said, adding, “You’re more than welcome to run.” Ms. Kannel immediately dismissed the notion, saying, “No, I don’t want to because I don’t want to get in on a mess like your bunch.”
Councilor Lirot said, “You make us feel like we’ve really accomplished nothing here,” and Ms. Kannel interrupted, “You haven’t! All you do is argue!” Mr. Lirot explained, “Listen, we’re not really arguing. Just because Dick says something that I disagree with, I don’t think that I dislike Dick. He’s entitled to his opinion.” “Look at these two tonight,” Ms. Kannel said. “Making fun of everything. ‘Stick this in the paper.'” Councilor Hulbert interrupted to note that Councilor Chapin called him a derogatory name, and saying, “Don’t you think people should know?” “I’m referring to what he’s done as well,” an exasperated Ms. Kannel replied, adding, “Dick knows that I’m saying that he shouldn’t have done that.” “He did it twice in two minutes,” Hulbert added, to which Ms. Kannel countered, “And then you two carried it on.”
Clerk of Council, Heidi Bidwell, finally broke through to register Council votes on retiring into executive session. As the vote was being taken, Councilor Chapin turned to Ms. Kannel and said, “Thank you. We’ve needed that for a long time.” “Well, it’s the truth,” she said. “You either need to start working together, or decide to move on so that somebody else can come in who wants to take care of the town.” Councilor Ledyard replied, “Yeah, and there’s four seats up in November; you might as well run then.” “You’re in the seat now,” Ms. Kannel said. “You need to do it now. Don’t try to pass the buck.” “You guys can run in November,” Ledyard replied. “Why don’t you guys run?” Ms. Kannel reiterated, “You are in here now, so you do it now!” “You run in November,” Ledyard repeated, and after nearly ten minutes had passed since bringing the issue up for discussion, it came to a close with no action taken.
Council then retired into executive session. Upon returning to regular session, a subdued Councilor Ledyard apologized for his actions during the debate over Ordinance 06-17. Council approved the resignation of Officer Scott Wilson, the hiring of Kyle Wheeler, and the authorization for the police department to utilize part-time personnel up to 45 hours per week.