During the May 7 Special City Council meeting, Republican Ward 6 candidate John Pruett twice interrupted the proceedings to give a campaign statement on the Ward 6 vacancy. When he wasn’t allowed to speak, he eventually exclaimed “It’s not fair!” and walked out.
John Pruett is the Republican candidate for the Ward 6 City Council seat. Although the campaign season is young, Pruett first raised some eyebrows during the May 1 City Council meeting.
During the public comment segment of the May 1 meeting, when City Council was reviewing two candidates for appointment to the Ward 6 seat left vacant by the passing of John Greco, several community members had voiced their opinions of Democratic Ward 6 candidate Juanita Aikens, noting that Aikens, an African-American woman, would be the best choice to represent the diverse population of Ward 6.
When Pruett had his turn to speak, he claimed that because of “age discrimination” and the fact that he’s 68 years old, he is also suited to represent “diversity” in the Ward that boasts the largest percentage of people of color in the city.
“I heard someone say, you know, “diversity.” I’m an old person. I think someone mentioned age discrimination earlier. Well, I actually serve an interest in providing diversity on the panel. I’m 68 years old.”
-John Pruett, May 1 2019 City Council meeting
Later in his comments, Pruett stated that his experience on a committee at his previous corporate job at a company called American Hospital Supply showed that he was qualified to serve “minority interests.”
“At a corporation called American Hospital Supply I was in charge of the “Equality Action Committee” for 35,000 employees, where we put EOC (Federal ‘Equal Opportunity Centers’ program) applications in everybody’s performance reviews, and got things done to where there were requirements to bring equal employment within the organization.
You don’t have to be a minority to be able to help serve the interest of diversity and minority interests.”
-John Pruett, May 1 2019 City Council meeting
Less than a week later, Pruett attended the special city council meeting.
“I Don’t Like Being Shut Up”
As anyone who has attended a city council meeting knows, the public is only allowed to comment at designated times during the meeting.
The May 7th City Council agenda stated that there would be an “appointment to fill the Ward 6 vacancy” but made no mention of public comment.
After the discussion to appoint Edith Wormley and council was about to vote to appoint Wormley, Mayor Ron Alcock was interrupted by Pruett, who said “I’d like to make a comment, if possible.” Alcock replied “I’m not taking public comment for this, John. Thank you, though.”
After council voted to appoint Wormley and the agenda had already moved to the DRI streetscaping discussion, Pruett asked “Is it possible to add anything under the last mention,” and Alcock again told Pruett, “I’m not gonna open up public comment.”
Pruett immediately responded by making a statement anyway:
“I was gonna vote for Juanita tonight, just in case anybody would like to know and I’d like to tell the reasons why (unintelligible).
Cause I think that probably would have been better for (unintelligible) in our ward, as well for myself and running.
It’s not an on-the-job training position. I think whoever gets in…”
At this point, the Mayor had allowed the Republican Ward 6 City Council candidate to give a campaign speech, for more than 15 uninterrupted seconds, during a city council meeting, in front of one of the largest crowds for a city council meeting in recent memory.
Geneva Believer was there to videotape the appointment portion of the meeting, but I was also there as a resident of the city and Ward 6. I knew that it was wildly inappropriate for the Mayor to let a member of the public to not only make a statement after being told twice it was not allowed, but to also let a candidate representing his own political party to break this rule and give what amounted to a campaign speech.
So I interrupted and asked Mr. Pruett, “Can you campaign on your own time?” I then asked the Mayor, “Why is this gentleman (Pruett) campaigning?”
Alcock again reminded Pruett and all attendees, “Public comment is not open, as I stated.”
Pruett responded, “I don’t like being shut up. It’s not fair” and left the meeting.
It’s Campaign Season
Although the majority of the 2019 City Council candidates haven’t made many campaign speeches or appearances, the election season was underway when the two major parties announced their lists of endorsed candidates weeks ago.
If Mr. Pruett is going to show up at City Council meetings and speak publicly, he will be held accountable for his statements and actions.
Mr. Pruett either had a profound lack of understanding on how public comment works during a city council meeting, or he understood how it works but simply didn’t think the rules should apply to him.
Our lame duck Republican Mayor, of course, deserves to be called out for allowing a Republican candidate to use time during a City Council meeting to make a campaign speech. It would be refreshing to hear a current councilor publicly admonish the Mayor for his conduct in this situation.