(Newton, NJ) The Sussex County Board of County Commissioners Director Dawn Fantasia was forced to interrupt Wednesday night’s Commissioner meeting, reminding residents to be considerate of each speaker’s time to comment.
Things escalated during the public session, as well as a separate activated chat feature during the virtual Zoom meeting. Fantasia was forced to stop the meeting to address the entire audience, after one member of the public mocked the comments made by another. She also had to remind the call administrator to ensure all lines remain muted during the public session, except for the caller who is then speaking.
Wednesday was the first meeting the Commissioners used the Zoom platform, with past meetings using a conference call platform. Wednesday’s meeting now carries a note on the Sussex County website that the audio was “edited to remove technical difficulties encountered during the introduction of a new meeting platform.”
“We had this issue a bit last year [with members of the public interrupting others], so I’m going to nip it in the bud right now, right out of the gate in 2021,” Fantasia said. “When you speak, the Commissioners will offer all of you the respect that you deserve, because you took time out of your day and you’re participating in the public process, and whether I agree with you or not, you could think I’m wonderful, you could think I’m terrible, it’s of little importance that piece.”
“But what you have to say is important.” Fantasia continued. “And what every caller has to say is important. And any outbursts that happen, you’re going to be muted and you’ll stay muted. So please keep in mind to contain yourself, your three minutes is your three minutes, you won’t be interrupted by a commissioner, but you’re also not going to be interrupted by another member of the public.”
On behalf of the entire Board, Fantasia would like to remind the public, all members are invited to speak for an allotted three minutes at meetings during two public sessions, the first pertaining to agenda items and the second, any item that members of the audience would like to address.
Following Wednesday’s meeting, Fantasia learned that there were speakers fearful of going on the record, concerned that their personal information could subject them to repercussions from several speakers, who held differing viewpoints.
In response, Fantasia has released the following statement:
“It has come to my attention that, the manner several speakers addressed fellow residents, kept other speakers from contributing,” she said.
“In follow-up to my comments at Wednesday’s meeting, I would like to say that everyone in Sussex County is an individual of equal standing, regardless of their political party,” Fantasia continued. “Everyone speaking or who would like to speak is a taxpayer. We need to stop referring to one another tribally and speakers need to remain civil toward one another as each speaks. It is disconcerting to me that residents would feel afraid to exercise their important Constitutional rights under the First Amendment. We will only begin to heal from the events of the last year, if we extend the respect to others that we ask for ourselves.”
To listen to the full audio from Wednesday’s meeting, visit:
The Commissioners’ next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 27. For further information about all upcoming and past County meetings, visit: