, Derry, New Hampshire


July 25, 2013

Derry councilors spar over public forum policy


Before he became a councilor, Dimmock was often the first person to get up to the podium during the public forum. He told councilors the public had a right to have answers to questions and not have to wait a week or more for councilors to respond.

That two-way conversation can sometimes get heated and personal, Councilor Brad Benson said.

He said he didn’t believe the public forum was as productive as it should be.

“This is our meeting, not a public meeting,” Benson said. “We don’t even have to have a public forum.”

For the past several years, Benson said, he has seen the same six or eight people get up to speak, often on the same subjects and many also saying things that aren’t true.

“It’s what they interpret as the truth, and when it gets out there, it’s believed,” he said.

Benson also took issue with people making personal attacks on councilors, something he said should not be tolerated.

“Things turn into arguments,” he said. “Public forum is a chance to bring issues to the council, not yell and attack us. It’s to get things resolved. That what public forum is to me, but not what I’ve experienced.”

Dimmock took an opposite view from Benson and said council meetings are public meetings.

That sparked more tension and elevated voice levels among councilors.

“It is a public meeting, it’s town business and people who want to speak have a right to speak on town business,” Dimmock said.

Benson then accused Dimmock of disrespect and said he didn’t appreciate the way he was being spoken to.

“You don’t have the right to yell at me and point your finger at me and scream and yell,” Benson said. “Even though you think you can do that, you don’t have the right.”

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