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Monday, December 29, 2014

Game On: "One Little, Two Little, Three Little Councilmen"

It's time to update the "He said; She said" shenanigans at Portsmouth City Hall.

In the latest chapter ...

New restrictions are being proposed.

First Ward City Councilman Kevin W. Johnson wants Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen to talk about any issues he has with Portsmouth City Council not in an open forum such as a City Council meeting, but instead in one of two more private settings. These settings are as follows:

1. Behind closed doors in executive session by which they can discuss legal or personnel issues, or

2. In private meetings with a member or up to three members of council at a time 

According to the Daily Times, Johnson is disturbed by allegations made by by City Manager Allen. He says ...

“At our meeting two weeks ago the City Manager went on at length with an allegation that I had told the Community Development Director that she could possibly be laid off and various comments about council laying off other city employees in the room.

“And, of course, this accusatory discourse by the city manager concerning two members of council once again made front page news in the local newspapers; to the extent that one paper twice mentioned the name of an employee, quoting our city manager, which I consider to be not the fault of the paper but definitely an ethical breach of our personnel policies.”

(Frank Lewis. "Johnson responds to city manager. Portsmouth Daily Times. December 29, 2014)

In a statement to Council, Johnson said the accusation was all about a conversation he had with the City Clerk in the office of the clerk and council when a department head happened to be sitting in. Johnson claims he didn't say "anything close" to what the city manager alleged.

Instead, Johnson claims Allen, as confirmed in conference agenda minutes during a meeting for both the public and city employees on November 24 stated, “We’re not going to be able to do the things we need to do without laying people off and one of those is the Community Development Department, and we won’t have that department.”

Welllllllll ...

It looks as if the "gag" may be the new order of the day. Could it be that Council will limit the much-reported, highly entertaining, personal bickering to closed executive talks or private conversations of "one-two- or three"? And, if the limits are imposed, what about Council members "four, five, and six"? Will they get the news from the designated trio of inside men by good old hearsay?

I suggest when a councilman or the City Manager has a disruptive or disputed piece of city information to speak, the group should be required to take a line and play a round of the popular parlor game of "Gossip." The participants have just one opportunity to whisper the news into the ear of the next participant, and so on down the line. Then, at the end of the game each person can believe whatever he heard from the next. There would be no need for time-consuming sessions and limited meetings. And, a good time of "not hearing anything close" would be had by all.

If things do go private, I, for one, will miss the harrumphing and blabbering personal accusations in public council meetings. The infighting never ceases to be fascinating, trivial conversation that diverts the attention of council from any real business at hand. Many thanks to the Times for printing these reports as they reveal the "Access Hollywood" perspective of council exploits to the community.

Words? I can tell you one thing about words: Whoever says words can't hurt you has never gotten hit in the face with a dictionary. But now that dictionaries are online, new dangers lurk.

“Words are like people, I think. Put too many of them 
too close together and they cause trouble.”

--Carolee Dean, Take Me There

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