PENDLETON — A meeting of the Pendleton Town Council came to an abrupt end Thursday, but the people who did get a chance to speak lauded that it embodied greater civility than most recent gatherings.
True to the newly developed rules she read to the standing-room-only crowd, Council President Jessica Smith shut down the public comments after Linda Gabbert started reading a speech about resident Marty Parlos. He already had spoken.
“What is your business before the council?” Smith asked Gabbert.
Gabbert’s grandchildren are the children of Marc Farrer, who last month was reinstated unexpectedly as police chief after being demoted earlier this year for Facebook posts considered by some to be anti-Muslim.
“I feel like I am a citizen in this town, and I was not allowed to speak,” she said, adding that Smith plays favorites by choosing who is allowed to address the council.
Parlos was one of several residents expected to address Farrer’s reinstatement. Several other people also already had spoken on a number of controversial topics, including the service of Town Manager Timothy McClintick and the employment situations of some employees.
Jami Soultz also had hoped to speak in support of Farrer but said she was robbed of the opportunity when Smith slammed down her gavel and ended the meeting.
“I wasn’t going to stand up there and bash anyone. I just wanted them to hear both sides of the story,” she said.
Kristen Case was one of a handful of people wearing green T-shirts that said, “I am not alone.” She said she and the others wearing the shirts represented a segment of townspeople who are sad, embarrassed and afraid by a group of residents who are a loud, toxic presence at council meetings and on social media.
“We’re a different voice, a calmer, more peaceful voice. We’re not loud and angry people,” she said. “Our children are watching us. I want to teach our children that disagreement is healthy, but there is a right way and a wrong way. I am afraid for my family. I am afraid for my job.”
Resident Jo Scott was one of several people who expressed dismay by the attention the town has received for the way its people have behaved.
“I have stood back and observed the events which have taken place at our town council meetings since January. I strongly feel it is time for me to speak up. These important meetings have become political rallies or he said/she said shouting matches. This is not acceptable.”