A tense three-hour Allen County Council meeting ended with two members breaking decorum as they argued with raised voices in the last five minutes.
The argument started after Councilman Paul Lagemann asked if he could propose a new business item – creating a countywide grant writer position. Lagemann was selected by an Oct. 30 Republican caucus to finish Joel Benz's term on County Council, making Thursday Lagemann's first meeting as a member.
Lagemann told council he has talked with many county officials about the position that he says would focus on using grants across the county to offset taxpayer money. The grant writer could focus on public safety and infrastructure at first, aiming to eventually assist every county department.
He suggested the position be sent to the personnel committee as soon as possible.
“I'm just floored right now because who did you talk to? You said you talked to all of these people?” Councilwoman Sheila Curry-Campbell said. “Because you didn't call me.”
Councilman Ken Fries spoke up as Lagemann replied that he talked to some of the other council members.
“He didn't call me either, so don't worry about it,” Fries said to Curry-Campbell.
Lagemann was quick to defend himself.
“I talked to all sorts of people throughout this process,” he said.
Curry-Campbell asked, “Who?! I mean you just got on the ...; this is your first meeting.”
Robert's Rules of Order state members will address only the president directly during a discussion and will speak only after being recognized by the president. Curry-Campbell and Lagemann, who were seated next to each other at the conference table, started to raise their voices and talk over each other.
“Yes, and I visited 27 different individuals within county government after I got elected,” Lagemann said.
Councilman Kyle Kerley, council president, knocked on the table as if he were banging a gavel to demand order. Curry-Campbell yielded as Lagemann continued.
“If you don't think it's a good idea, don't vote for it. That's all there is to it,” he said. “This is the beginning of the process, and if you want to provide input, provide input.”
Fries said a good starting point for Lagemann would be connecting with the personnel committee to see how many county employees are paid extra to write grants. Fries mentioned that the Allen County Sheriff's Department increased the salary of an employee about six years ago to write grants.
“And they're not writing grants,” he said.
Kerley said he thought the council should wait to discuss the possible new position with the Allen County commissioners during a standing executive session it holds at the start of each month.
Lagemann agreed, saying he isn't trying to force the new position through. Curry-Campbell interrupted him to say that it sounds like he is trying to force the position through.
Some county employees are already applying for grants, Curry-Campbell said, because many county departments have received grants.
The motion to send the new position to the personnel committee was approved with Curry-Campbell and Kerley in opposition. Councilman Tom Harris was absent.