To the Editor:

This past Thursday’s borough assembly meeting was marred due to a bullying incident. Specifically, during a period set aside for audience comments, one of the audience members was duly recognized and began her presentation.

Shortly thereafter, one of the assembly members began forcibly shouting her down, repeatedly and loudly incanting “Point of Order”, “Point of Order”, until the speaker, a senior citizen, eventually was forced to relinquish the floor.

Thereupon the assembly member, although unrecognized by the chair (which in itself would appear to be a Point of Order) concluded with a short explanation of his purported “Point of Order” — namely that he had determined that the audience member’s comments were disrespectful of a member of the assembly. (Otherwise stated, honest criticism is now proscribed speech.)

My initial reaction is, what would be the chances that this borough assembly member would have taken this same course of action if, let’s say, the audience member he was bullying had been an attorney or someone of perceived influence or substantial means in our community? Would he have pursued this same pedantic behavior?

Or perhaps one could observe that the claimed “Point of Order” does not appear to be one, at least within Robert’s Rules guidelines. Or perhaps at this point I should choose to come up with some pithy remark about the character of the assembly as a whole based upon the sole actions of this assembly member. But I know and have worked with some of these assembly members and generally have found them to be hard-working folk of good and honest character. Regardless, in some small way the offending assembly member’s comments certainly besmirched the overall character of the board this evening — in my opinion.

And, of course, there is always the First Amendment, which squarely prohibits any abridgement of the freedom of speech, which bullying action clearly occurred here and which the meeting’s presiding official, allowed. Although not required, it would seem that a public apology from the assembly presiding officer to the community at the beginning of the next assembly meeting would be appropriate.

Jeff Stewart

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