County Keeps Planning Commission;Matheny Has Meltdown
Chase Matheson - November 15, 2023
COFFEE COUNTY, TN -- As we reported last week, the Coffee County Commission was poised to vote on the removal of 5 of the 7 members of the Planning Commission in last night’s regularly scheduled meeting. The proposal, the thought-child of Coffee County Mayor Judd Matheny, was centered around the way training records had been documented—admittedly a technicality.
Matheny stated he was just worried about limiting liability for the county, but before the night was finished, he may have created more.
In an overwhelming turn out, citizens packed the Commission room leaving standing room only. At the onset of the meeting, Commissioner Hershman made a motion that not many saw coming. He motioned to remove the Agenda Item 11a, which was the “Planning Commission Hearing.” His motion was passed 11-4 with 3 members absent, which prevented the Planning Commission Hearing and keeps all 7 members of the current commission in place. It also should have prevented the Bryan Burklin of the Comptroller's Office from speaking--more on that in a moment.
Although the hearing had been removed from the Agenda members of the public were not dissuaded from speaking on the subject, and things got pretty tense early on.
Public comment began and instead of following a particular order, Mayor Judd Matheny took the personal "liberty" of going first. Though the Mayor mentioned a 2 minute limit on individual speakers, he took 3 minutes for his public comment--most of this time was spent playing a recorded call of which he was a party.
The recorded call was not the epic bombshell he was hoping for, and the majority of the Audience was more upset that he took 3 minutes of the public comment for himself. It is unknown if Mayor Matheny had completed the required sign up sheet at least 10 minutes before the meeting as is required in board policy, or if he just took the "liberty" all by himself.
The first member of the Public who approached the podium was named Jenny McKee. Jenny, who opposed the “shady” politics taking place in county, was short, sweet and to the point as you can see in the video below.
Unfortunately she had to pause multiple times to request Mayor Matheny look her in the eyes, which he seemed to have a problem doing. Her comment lasted less than the allotted 2 minutes and was followed by a round of applause.
The next speaker was Quinn Sullivan, one of the Founding Members of Save Coffee County, TN--a grassroots organization formed about 2 years ago to focus on county zoning and growth. Quinn also spoke against the Mayor’s proposed removal of the Planning Commission and spoke for the full 2 minutes. The first 2 minutes were fairly reasonable, but this is when things began getting interesting interesting.
page 1 of the agenda showing item 11a.
As soon as the Mayor indicated that Quinn’s time had expired, multiple citizens who were in line to speak stook up and “yielded their time” to Quinn. Mayor Matheny did not appear pleased with this, and after snapping back and bickering at him, attempted to end Quinn’s yielded time ~45 seconds too soon then took up another minute complaining about the job the Planning Commission has done.
Another individual yielded Quinn their time, and the Mayor spoke for almost a full minute before allowing Mr. Sullivan to speak again.
Then Mayor Matheny tried to cut Quinn's time short again after only 40 seconds. Quinn persisted to speak and in the end, was able to speak for a total of 4 minutes and 50 seconds of the total 6 minutes that was given and yielded to him.
2 more people were allowed to speak. One, perhaps the 1 individual in the crowd who was vocally supporting the Mayor, spoke only 1 minute 21 seconds before the Mayor gaveled her out of the way. Then when the next gentleman got up to speak, Mayor Matheny made the announcement that his would be the last comment—which was interrupted and cut short yet again.
In summary, at the onset of the public comment Matheny had stated there would be 20 minutes to speak. Then, he took the liberty of speaking for the first 3 minutes, interrupting citizens who disagreed with him for an additional 1 minute 30 seconds, and then stopped any other people from speaking. In total, only 16 minutes of the allotted 20 minutes had passed, 5 of which were taken up by the Mayor. This left only `11 minutes for public comment. Then, you cant forget about Bryan from the Comptroller's Office.
Once public comment was over and agenda item 11a had been removed, it was pretty clear the Planning Commission members were safe for the night, but the Mayor wasn't ready to give up on his plan just yet. The Mayor then invited the Official from the Comptroller’s office (an out of county resident) to opine. Ultimately, Bryan didn't have much to say and the statements he made could have been found in a quick Google search.
When questioned about violating the Commission's policies on out-of-county public comment, Matheny contradicted his earlier statements and said that “we're over public comment sir, we just ended them.”
It's at this point Mrs. McKee got up to leave the room. Mayor Matheny gaveled the meeting to order and threatened to have her removed, although she had just stated she was leaving and was already collecting her things.
McKee responded with "That's okay I'm removing myself from your shady politics."
The crowd applauded as she left the room. The remainder of the meeting was mostly business as usual, although the Mayor seemed uncomfortable.
The Patriot Punk Network caught up with Commissioner Terry Hershman after the meeting, and he was not pleased with the dumpster fire that took place.
"I was timing people, and he didn't give some members 1 minute 20 seconds, let alone 2 minutes, and I was showing that to another commissioner.... and it bothers me," Commissioner Hershman said. "He'll retaliate against me for what I did tonight, because I killed what he was trying to do. Right is right, and wrong is wrong."
In closing, although Mayor Matheny may have had genuine concerns about the liability caused by the format in which the training records are kept, he may have opened up the commission to more by silencing citizens and cutting public comment short. For now, the 5 Planning Commission members are safe. And we still aren't getting a Buc-ee's.
If you appreciate the content we produce here at the Patriot Punk Network be sure to sign up for our Newsletter and follow us on social media! If you'd like to contribute financially please visit our "Support" page.