Monday night’s Brentwood Board of Aldermen meeting quickly became heated as residents once again took Mayor Pat Kelly and the board to task about their handling of recent events and the way the city conducts general meetings.
The open session lasted roughly an hour, but half of that time was spent on the public comment period. Of the 20 residents who attended the meeting, five spoke. They continued to ask why former was allowed to resign instead of being fired. Others asked about purported financial mismanagement in the city.
For the most part, Kelly and the aldermen waited patiently to respond while being peppered with questions and none-too-subtle criticisms. Legalities prevented Kelly from responding to many questions, he said.
One resident, Maureen Saunders, persisted with her questions despite several warnings from Kelly. Saunders surpassed the period's three-minute time limit and one-time opportunity to approach the podium.
“You can have me arrested. I don’t care,” said Saunders as she stood a second time at the podium, her voice rising. “I am tired of this. I don’t get answers. And unless I sit here and be a bully, I don’t get responses."
And question she did, from how the city paid for the building a few years ago, to wondering out loud about the value of the city’s , to demanding to know the exact amount of Brentwood firefighters.
Saunders, an accountant who works for a law firm, was the first person to speak during the open comment period and the last resident to speak during the meeting.
Among other things, she criticized the way bills are voted upon during meetings. Readings of bills should be staggered over two meetings, she said, allowing residents to review bills and ask questions before a final vote from the board.
"It increases transparency. It increases accountability," Saunders said.
It also gives residents and aldermen two additional weeks before the next meeting to study the bill, something that Ward 3 Alderman Andy Leahy has been advocating for several years, he said. He addressed that issue later in the meeting.
Although Saunders clearly dominated discussion from the community, often commenting from her seat in the audience, other residents spoke at the meeting too.
Jeff Harrison appealed to the mayor and aldermen to help restore faith in Brentwood. He went on to say that there should be resignations from the board. “We don’t have the business accountability, the business acumen in this room,” he said.
Retired nurse Paula Martin spoke of her discontent of "paying a fat pension to a man who stole from us," making reference to Seemayer.
Karen Smith wanted answers to specific questions, like about the redevelopment at the Brentwood Meridian. The city has been engulfed in an ongoing lawsuit regarding the development. All parties recently settled.
“Are the bonds going to be re-issued,” she asked. Smith, like Saunders, asked Kelly if he was going to answer the questions she posed or "snowball us like you always do."
Kelly said he would do his best.
Funds earmarked for bond repayment of the tax-increment financing (TIF) project erroneously went to the wrong bank account for almost two years, he said. Retailers incorrectly coded their returns. It has since been corrected and the city has reimbursed the proper account.
Kelly said there will be a new agreement and that the bonds will be re-issued.
“As part of the settlement, we are not allowed to talk about the case,” he said.
After closing the public comment, the mayor went on to address the tone of the comments and communication concerns. "I will say, sitting up here, I feel that you are taking personal attacks," he said to the audience.
“I believe communication is a two-way street. I am more than willing to sit down with anybody at any time and answer questions,” Kelly said, defending himself against Saunders' earlier comments.
“Maureen, you never called me and asked me questions,” Kelly said, which set Saunders off. She started speaking again from her seat in the audience.
“I did in years past and I got nowhere,” she said. "And when this came, I emailed you. I emailed you about the letter regarding (Seemayer’s) sentencing. I never got a response. I have the receipts,” Saunders said.
Despite their testy exchanges, Saunders took the mayor up on his offer to talk any time, and asked if he and the other aldermen could stay after the meeting.
Another Brentwood resident, Julie Pozzo, remained, as did aldermen Keith Robertson (Ward 3) and Mike Marshall (Ward 2). The group's conversation concluded by 9:30 p.m., with all of the other residents gone.
Kelly said the discussion after the meeting went well.
"I believe I answered all of her (Saunders') questions," Kelly said.
The open session is meant for public comment, not for public debate, he said.
Some business was conducted during the regular board meeting, including the passage of an ordinance for a short-term consultancy with Glennon Company for a holiday advertising campaign.