Outrageous Public Meeting #3


Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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20 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrick says:

    Wow, that’s… impressively bad judgement on the part of the commissioners and the secretary and the security guards… and very risky behavior by Mike.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:


      What was risky about it? I mean, he was sitting rather calmly in a chair until security engaged him. And it is worth noting that they seemed to go directly to physical engagement… failing to engage him verbally.

      Here’s the thing… security showed up and stood there and seemed to assume that was sufficient non-physical engagement… that there mere presence should get everyone to fall in line. But that shouldn’t be how it works. Citizens engaging their elected officials should not be expected to quiet down because two guys in polo shits walk in. And Mike’s point that they were not identified as security goes right to the heart of the matter… if cops and other peace keeping forces fail to properly identify themselves as such, they should not be afforded with the powers and authority that is conferred by that position.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

        Someone grabs your camera and tugs on your neck like that, you’re well within your legal and moral rights to attack back.

        You throw a flurry of head punches at one security guard who is armed, when he has a partner? That’s risky, even when it’s justified.

        Just from a personal risk calculus, that’s all. Not assigning normative judgement here.Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    At about 27 minutes, one of the security guys says “We had an accidental discharge, too.” Then there’s a visual search for where the bullet went, about thirty seconds before actual cops show up. They find the shell behind the camera filming the incident at about 28:30.

    Yes, Skidmore was being an angry jerk, and yes, he was a lot more legally in the right than legally in the wrong. Neither of which are relevant to the fact that he got assaulted by security guards and a room full of people got put in danger by an “accidental discharge.”

    Speaking of which. “Accidental discharge,” my ass. “Negligent” discharge, there’s a phrase I might sign off on.

    I’ve not had extensive firearms training or experience. But what little I’ve had impressed me with this truism, from the first time I handled a weapon as a teenager. There must never be an “accidental” discharge. The weapon must only fire when it is intended to fire, either at a target on a range or at target that is intended to be taken down. Safety is on, finger is out of the trigger guard, until you have consciously decided to shoot. If the weapon fires when its user does not intend for it to fire, that’s culpable. So a) why was the weapon out of its holster, b) why was the safety off, c) why was someone’s finger (or anything else) allowed to come in contact with the trigger?

    That’s very much the security guard’s fault and he’s very lucky no one was hit with the projectile. Absent a damn good explanation, the likes of which baffle me after seeing the video, disciplinary action, and firearms safety recertification should the disciplinary action fall short of termination, would seem appropriate for the guard whose weapon “accidentally” discharged.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Burt Likko says:

      If a firearm is in a hand, it’s a negligent discharge, end of story.

      And while the guard was getting beat on, he had backup in the room, and there was no obvious lethal force at play. The guy had 30-50 lbs on Mike, and Mike was unarmed. No clear disparity of force. His firearm had no reason to leave its holster.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Pretty much spot on Burt, but I’d challenge one part. If the weapon is in the holster, the safety should be on. If you draw the weapon, you’re responding to a possible threat, so I can see the weapon safety off. Finger outside the trigger still ofc….since you don’t put your finger inside the trigger guard until you’re ready to fire.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Burt Likko says:

      little bit of googling tells me that it was after-the-fact revised to “intentional discharge”.

      I’m not sure which is worse–the idea that the gun went off accidentally, or the idea that the officer thought it would be appropriate to take the shot.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Alan Scott says:

        I don’t think he tried to “take the shot” as much as he pulled his weapon the moment he started getting hit, and put his finger on the trigger, and at some point he pulled the trigger (probably by reflex from getting hit). Although I could be wrong & he very intentionally tried to take the shot in order to stop getting hit.

        Point is, he had no cause to pull his weapon, he was a guard, not a cop, and even a cop should have to justify pulling a weapon in that circumstance.Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Everything is peaceful until the guard(?) lays hands on Mike for no obvious reason. No order to leave (or justification for that order to leave), etc. If things are peaceful, people/police should endeavour to keep them so.Report

  4. Avatar Patrick says:

    Also: that secretary should be disciplined.Report

  5. Avatar DavidTC says:

    The public officials, I think, tried to tweak their “rules of order” to avoid Skidmore.

    They…don’t have to do that. If it’s a meeting *of* a body, only members of that body are actually *in* the meeting. I am assuming he’s not in the meeting, because he’s not sitting at the table.

    Everyone else is just an observer. They *generally* can be removed by a simple majority vote, but perhaps there’s some sort of ‘open meeting law’…but even so, under those laws, I’m fairly *specific* people can be removed for constantly interrupting.

    And, no, he can’t raises ‘points of order’ or anything. The rules of order are pretty clear about that. He’s not *actually* there, he gets no say whatsoever in how the meeting runs. And contrary to popular belief, the rules of order only *actually* have to be followed if someone in the meeting demands they are followed, especially in small committees. With unanimous consent (aka, if no one *in the meeting* objects), it’s perfectly permissible to run a meeting however the hell people want to, as long as people are sure about what was actually decided on. (And, yes, this is *explicitly* stated in Robert’s Rules of Order.)

    He also cannot demand documents or demand to see what’s going on *during* the meeting. There might be some open government rule that gives him access to those things, but that does not include badgering people *during* the meeting for this. He should make a request of the secretary after the meeting.

    I know this seems unclear, because they’re all sitting sorta together…but imagine this meeting as a bunch of people sitting on a stage in an auditorium, and rows of seating (Which is often how local government meetings are held), and one guy keeps yelling from the audience about how they should be doing the meeting, and you’ll see what’s actually happening. Or imagine that someone is yelling something from the spectator galley of Congress.

    It doesn’t matter that he’s sitting two feet away, he *can’t talk* unless they ask him to talk, or unless the law gives him some sort of right to talk. (And it’s pretty unlikely he’d just have the right to do so *randomly*, as opposed to a right to discuss specific issues up for a vote.)

    That said, they didn’t seem to understand how to get rid of him, which would be to vote to remove him, ordering him to leave, and then altering the police he was trespassing. Not have some idiotic private goons try to stare him down and then assault him.

    Edit: It appears at one point they consider going to executive session to get rid of the interlopers, which is the wrong way to do it under the rules of order, and probably a violation of the open meeting laws, which generally only allow executive sessions when they are required for privacy. (The correct way to do it under the rules of order is to just order everyone to leave, but under the open meetings laws, probably have to do it ‘for cause’, so are restricted to one at a time.)Report

    • Avatar James Runkle in reply to DavidTC says:

      Well… In Pa. municipal bodies must allow for some sort of public comment period before a vote, although some governments have interpreted that to be two or three minutes at the beginning of the meeting. Others interpret the rule to mean providing that opportunity before each vote. It’s not really a “public” meeting if the public has no chance to provide its input to the decision making process.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to James Runkle says:

        Well, we don’t know under what circumstances the man who is talking at the start started talking, but he appears to be complaining that the committee scheduled an executive session right then, before the open meeting. This, oddly, implies the meeting *hasn’t* started yet, although it clearly has.

        And the spectators are, incidentally, correct about that complaint. The generally accepted practice, unless there is some sort of emergency, is that if you have a meeting where the public has been invited, you have the public meeting first and *then* go into executive session. You don’t invite spectators and then make them stand outside until you get to the part they’re allowed to watch. (And whether that committee likes it or not, those people have been invited *by law*.) And as no one appears to be able to *justify* why they need an executive session, and certainly not why then need to do it *right then*, I have to believe the guy in the audience that says they’re just doing it to remove those people with the hopes they won’t be back, or, to make decisions without any sort of comment.

        In fact, *scheduling* an executive session by itself is sorta a weird thing to do. I don’t see how you can technically do that under the rules of order. You could do that at a previous meeting (Via recessing and reconvene as an executive meeting), but that’s not what happened here. It just changed between meetings, and while chair or secretary the are usually given leeway to *change* meeting times that are discovered to be impractical, altering an existing meeting into *starting* as an executive session is not generally within their power. In reality, the chair would schedule a meeting to deal with a delicate issue, and that meeting, once started, reads previous minutes and whatnot, then immediately vote to go into executive session.

        But the problem is…even if the spectators are right…they don’t have the power to do anything about it from where they are. The only people with the right to fix wrongs *within the meeting* are people who are *part of the body* that is meeting. They, and only they, can argue for their rights. People who do not have any sort of voting power within a meeting have no ability to fix ‘wrongs’ done to them.

        If the committee is violating the *law*, the only place to deal with that is the courts, not arguing with the committee.

        But, anyway, I was just making the point that these people seem to have no idea how to run a meeting, and are letting the audience run roughshod over them, which is something the chair should *never* allow. If the audience starts backtalking, you make them leave.

        And if they truly had scheduled an executive meeting first, they shouldn’t have let anyone *in*, much less debate with them. However, I’m suspecting that their claims that the meeting was ‘already’ changed to an executive one was bogus to start with, and they tried that nonsense when they realized people were there.

        Also, the second guy in the audience, talking, is an idiot, and has no idea what an ‘executive session’ is, appearing to think it only involves executives. An ‘executive committee’, of course, can have anyone in it that the committee thinks is relevant, and would obviously include *anyone* with voting power, ‘executive’ or not.Report