Civility, Bullying and Missed Opportunities at Otero County Commissioner Meeting

Image Sheriff Black Grabs Microphone From Couy Griffin

Civility in politics has been decreasing for a long time and people are losing patience with the rhetoric. Most bullying by politicians and their supporters happens online however locally Couy Griffin took the act of bullying to a whole new level at Thursday’s County Commission Meeting.

In a verbal attack on Governor appointed Commissioner Stephanie Dubois; Mr Griffin took shaming and political bullying to a whole new level but not new to him. He has a history of creating rhetoric of division and in this case the whole disruption of the County Commission Meeting that involved shutting down of the meeting for several minutes, clearing the chambers and involvement by the Sheriff and deputies demonstrated a lack of civility, a lack or control and a lack of professionalism and decorum.

The whole event was an orchestrated event by Mr. Griffin and few of his followers as an act of intimidation intended to embarrass Ms Dubois. The other seated Commissioners appeared embarrassed by the events. Mr Matherly seemed particularly embarrassed and shocked, at times reaching for the gavel, while Commission Chair Vickie Marquardt appeared out of sorts in how to control the situation. Finally Sheriff Black grabbed the microphone from Mr. Griffin and said “enough.” Then Marquardt cleared the chambers for all to calm down and come back in about 15 minutes later.
Mr Griffin was then again approved to continue his unwarranted tirade. While Mr. Griffin was well within his constitutional rights of free speech to say whatever he wanted. He violated any level of decency and humanity and certainly not acting in the image of faith.

Mr Griffin claims to be a a man of faith “who was once guided by Devine inspiration to horseback from San Francisco to Ireland to Greece and into Jerusalem” per his claim. In his saddle bag, he carried a copy of the book that first refers to Jesus as “the Word” and also contains the verse that has become a staple of Christian theology: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” according to press reports. 

How does a man that professes the word God and claims a life “driven by scripture” believe it is acceptable to go onto an aggressive attack in an attempt to demean Ms. Dubois? God teaches forgiveness. Commissioner Dubois is not the enemy, she was approached and appointed by the Governor after the judicial decision to remove Mr Griffin.

Mr Griffin claims his removal and the appointment of a replacement were not lawful. The Executive Branch of Government and a Federal Judge from the Judiciary each played a role in his removal and a replacement being named. There is no great conspiracy, each branch of government is independent of the other as outlined via the constitution.

Mr. Griffin may feel there was overreach and that, could be debated in a civil manner, however, there is no excuse for the diatribe of abuse that was displayed at the commission meeting by Mr Griffin. His actions are inexcusable and are not only an affront on Commissioner Dubious but also an affront on civility on the citizens of Alamogordo and Otero County.

Link to County Commissioner Meeting

Otero County Commission Meeting November 10,

The events of the meeting and how it was handled were certainly uncomfortable for those in attendance. It was equally uncomfortable for those watching online. Imagine a civics class or students watching the meeting; disfunction at best, a lack of respect and decorum to the institution of civil society and governance at worse.
Is this the best of Alamogordo and Otero County?

In addition to issues with Couy Griffin, during the public comment time when he went on a rant, general shouting began and the chairwoman had the room cleared.
Couy, who started the trouble, was allowed back in but Matt Crecelius wasn't.

The chairwoman claimed that Matt Crecelius was being disruptive. His getting up multiple times and pacing around could be seen as intimidating to some when one watches the videos. While his actions did not warrant 5 deputies to address the issue, he did not do himself, Ms Dubois nor the Democratic Party any favors in his actions of getting up multiple times and battling the chair. Decorum must be represented by all members in a public setting. Standing, pacing and gestures are all viewed and interpreted in various ways. Civil discourse especially by members of the leadership of all parties is a must in public forums. Leadership of each party should set the example in public discussions in temperament and polite discourse. Just because one bully is on the playground is no reason for an opposing bully to step up. Decorum should prevail. Matt Crecelius confronted by Otero County Sheriff Black and deputies at Commission Meeting of Otero County New Mexico Commission Chair Vickie Marquardt attempting to gain control of Otero County Commission Meeting and cleared the room at one point

Yet again, Otero County hits the news reports in Northern New Mexico and around the nation. We lead the news cycle not with stories of business growth and prosperity, not with showcasing the beauty of White Sands, the Lincoln National Forest and culture but a majority of News stories continue to be of the lack of civility and the constant political chaos of the Otero County Commission.

Books on history of New Mexico politics will not reflect well on this period of county leadership if this lack of leadership in civility does come to an end.
To those sitting on the board and to Amy Barela joining the board, are these antics and lack of civility and good governance the reputation and legacy you want to be remembered by?

Each Commissioner is a decent person wanting to do right, yet collectively while on the Dias control of civility and following the will of a majority of the moderate population that is silent and disengaged gets lost.

Let’s quit leading by the extremes of both parties and lead via the will of the silent majority that is turned off by the political process and you each challenge yourselves to find common ground to bring them back in.

Otero County and its leaders are better than what was showcased at Thursday’s Commission Meeting. Bring Civility back to government.

Specific to Agenda items from the meeting, apparently Mr Griffin was offended Ms Dubois exercised her legal rights and requested two agenda items be placed for discussion…

Discuss, consider and hold a special meeting to revisit the 2016 initiative to increase the Board of County Commissioners to 5 members.

The item for expansion of the commission was voted on in a non-binding vote in 2016. 74% of the voters approved it. Ms Dubois requested dialog and a special meeting. The two other commissioners said the position additions would add 474,000 to the budget. The Excuse to not expand is that expense. The dialog was the cost to expand the layout of the commission chamber, and salaries. However after the initial year the budget impact is minimal per a document produced by Otero County from 2018 speaking to the expense of a 5 member commission…

5-Commissioners-SheetPDF Document · 202 KB

Ms Dubois put the issue on the agenda but then when a vote came to place it on the agenda she did not vote in favor of the special meeting to discuss the issue. What was the point of placing on the agenda and then not voting for a special session to allow public input? Obviously the two other commissioners were against but one would have thought Ms Dubois would have at least voted in favor of a public meeting to get the vote on the record since she placed it on the agenda! The failure to act is now a bi-partisan failure of leadership by all 3 commissioners based upon the results of the 74% that want 5 Commissioners. The opposition party can no longer point fingers at Republican leadership as the Democratic Commissioner could have made a bold public statement on the record but failed to act boldly.

The next agenda item Ms Dubois place can on the ballot was…

Discuss, consider and hold a public meeting to rescind Resolution #07-14-22/111-09 regarding Otero County as a Sanctuary for Life.

Again this could have been an opportunity for the minority party to be bold in giving an opposition vote. Yet the question was called and not a single commissioner voted in favor of holding a public meeting. Ms Dubois said “I just wanted to get my two cents in.” Again the Democratic Commissioner failed to vote in favor of a meeting to discuss resending the resolution, so why place the issue on the agenda?

Basically the whole sh—show of Couy Griffin’s outburst was sparked by his craving publicity, and him using the excuse of the two agenda items Ms Dubois placed on the agenda. For Ms Dubois too then not vote in favor of the items she placed on the agenda was either a sign of weakness from the intimidation tactics of Griffin, or was it a lack of understanding of the process?

The public will never know, but her party is now equally complicit, in owning the results of both agenda items, by her failure to vote and as the Democratic representative on the commission. 

The Otero County Commission has argued how difficult budget decisions are yet in the last year has fielded studies by non-reputable fringe organizations concerning voting, has engaged in countless staff hours and legal hours related to issues driven by Mr Griffin and has made the national news countless times in a view less then flattering for the citizens of Otero County.

Let’s hope as the new year approaches with a newly configured board that wisdom, civility and good governance with public policy that is inclusive and collaborative prevails.

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