“I apologize for my remarks as they pertained to public comment. I was wrong in many ways,” said Gibbons. “I definitely want to hear from the public in this meeting or any other venue, whether it be on the phone, email, or any other way someone wants to sit down with me, and I’ll consider all these inputs, respectfully and thoughtfully.”
He said that, contrary to his prior comments, he does take comments at meetings into account in making his decisions.
“If I gave the impression that I have already made up my mind on an issue before I walk into the board meeting, that’s absolutely not true,” he said. “I rely on input from the board, staff, the public at these meetings before I cast my vote.”
At the prior meeting on Feb. 14, during a discussion on setting public comment time limits, Gibbons advised citizens to address their issues with commissioners before meeting night, noting that each can be reached via phone or email.
“I understand that people want to speak before the Board, but people are conflating this as a right, when it’s just an expectation. It’s not a right,” he said. “This is representative democracy, not participatory. We’re not the Greeks in the agora (public forum) arguing, and we don’t need to turn this into a town hall meeting, which I’ve seen in the past.”
Gibbons said his mind was already made up before he takes his seat on the dais, and it should not affect him or his colleagues to hear from a sampling of speakers in public comments.
“While I understand people want to come and say something before the board, it’s not going to affect my opinion, certainly,” he said. “I don’t think it should affect our opinion to have a very small minority of people in the county come before us and advocate one way or the other on an issue.”
Chairman Randy Ognio accepted Gibbons’s apology and also put some of the blame on residents and the media.
“What’s sad is when you see citizens blow it up on (social) media,” he said. “We signed up for it. Criticism is one thing, but to start, you know, making fun of somebody or something online or in the media is just not what I thought our citizens were.”
Ognio sympathized with his colleague and expressed hope that residents would be kinder in the future.
“I do feel for Commissioner Gibbons,” he said. “This is a rough way to start your term, but I’m sure that the citizens will be better from here on out, I hope.”
Commissioner Charles Oddo sought to remind the public that their job is not easy, but that they do their best for the whole county.
“Sometimes we have to make a decision that seems harsh, but in reality it’s the best thing for the county in general because we have to take care of all the taxpayers,” he said. “Try to bear that in mind and have a little patience.
“We’re certainly not anybody’s opponents here.”
Commissioner Charles Rousseau noted it was a learning experience for Gibbons that they all have faced before.
“My colleague, I continue to welcome you. These are the things that we grow from,” he said. “I certainly have suffered from foot-in-mouth disease on a number of occasions, but that’s what we run for. Leadership is tough.”