For turning off a speaker’s microphone during public comment and having her escorted away by a sheriff’s deputy, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill took a verbal whipping from the public.
- FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
On Oct. 11, Hill shut down comments from Linde Owen, who regularly speaks on issues about the Los Osos sewer. Owen, who had come to speak against what she said was a lax county investigation into a relationship between Public Works Director Paavo Ogren and former Los Osos Community Services District director Maria Kelly (County Administrator Jim Grant announced a week earlier that he found no conflict of interest), was quickly interrupted by Hill who said he would not allow “slanderous” statements at public comment.
Owen and Hill argued throughout the entire three minutes allotted to public speakers. During the altercation, Owen’s microphone was cut off and she was escorted away from the lectern by a county sheriff’s deputy who for the past 10 months has been stationed in the back of the Board of Supervisors Chambers during public comment.
Then, on Oct. 18, Owen and others from Los Osos returned to condemn Hill’s actions, several of whom asked him to apologize.
“The allegations that did not come out of my microphone last week … on the combination of what happens when a CSD member takes up close relationship with the head of Public Works and they both have influence on the [Los Osos sewer] project,” Owen said. “That’s where the investigation should have gone, and anyone in their right mind would not have let this county investigate themselves.”
Most spoke about the Ralph M. Brown Act, which establishes rules for public comment at government meetings, and the First Amendment.
Eric Greening, a regular commenter and environmental activist also spoke up.“I’m a grateful user of the First Amendment,” Greening said. “Whenever I hear speakers that I agree with I’m grateful for the First Amendment. When I hear speakers I disagree with I’m grateful for the First Amendment. When I hear people presenting illuminating information I’m grateful for the First Amendment. When I hear people presenting what I think is misinformation I’m grateful for the First Amendment. And when I get up here and correct what I think is misinformation I’m grateful for the First Amendment. And I hope everyone in this room always treasures the First Amendment on that basis and we all have a chance to use it.”
Hill sat quietly through all of the speakers’ comments and did not offer a response. When asked for comment after the meeting, he told New Times in an e-mail, “I am not much interested in spending any more time on Ms. Owen.”