POUGHKEEPSIE – The often contentious relationship between residents and Poughkeepsie Common Council members, and at times among council members themselves, has pushed the new council to take a hard line.
From now on, a city police officer will attend council meetings, acting as a sergeant-at-arms.
A frequent source of the contention and discord, in the eyes of some council members, is city resident Laurie Sandau, who regularly speaks during public comment, often accusing the entire council and individual council members, by name, of lacking transparency and ignoring protocol.
Sandau saw the measure, appropriating $5,500 out of contingency for the position, as clearly targeting herself.
“Not $5,000 for tree maintenance, not $5,000 for homicide, but $5,000 for police to sit in this council room,” Sandau said. “I personally was the attempted target of this new rule at the council’s first meeting and yet again tonight. Why is this council so frightened by words that hold them responsible for their own actions that they need to use city money to silence the truth?”
That came after the council went into a brief recess over Saudau’s claim during her first attempt to speak that frequent interruptions by Councilmember-At-Large and Chairwoman Ann Finney telling her addressing council members by name violated council rules, and then, that her three minutes had expired.
Sandau claimed there is no council rule pertaining to identifying anyone by name.
Councilman Matthew McNamara, supporting the resolution, did not deny that Sandau was a target.
“It’s okay to disagree,” McNamara said. “We do it all the time and somehow, are able to move forward and I would just ask the public to do the same. Again, I’ve seen other meetings and I’m just shocked by how this council, in the past two years that I’ve been on it, have been talked to by the public and I don’t see that anywhere else.”
The motion to fund a sergeant at arms passed on a unanimous 9-0 vote.
The position will be filled by a city police officer who will be paid overtime to attend the meetings.