An Oxford Village councilman’s gesture of contrition regarding a heated exchange that reportedly happened during a recent budget discussion was met with a disdainful response from a fellow council member who described him as “relatively timid and meek.”
During the council comments portion of the May 22 regular village meeting, Councilman Joe Frost handed out and read a written statement expressing regret over what took place at a May 15 budget workshop meeting and vowing to do better in the future.
In it, Frost explained how “a conversation pertaining to the budgeting of village services quickly escalated beyond the point of professional decorum.”
“This incident included the use of unprofessional language directed at me . . . which I responded to with equally unprofessional language,” he wrote.
It should be noted there is no audio or video record of this workshop.
Because the workshop occurred in the village’s community room, not the council chambers, there is no audio recording of the proceedings as there usually is with regular and special council meetings. Workshops are typically conducted in this room because it’s considered a more informal setting.
Also, there was no cameraperson from Oxford Community Television present to film the meeting.
Although they briefly summarize the subject matter discussed during the workshop, the official meeting minutes, prepared by Assistant Village Manager Drew Benson and approved by council last week, make no mention of any arguments nor do they contain any specific statements made by any of the individual council members. The minutes noted that “Council Member Frost left the meeting at 7:34 p.m.,” there was a brief recess and the meeting resumed at 7:40 p.m. It was adjourned at 8:34 p.m.
In his written statement, Frost indicated that “in the heat of the moment and in the midst of (his) frustration,” he declared his intention to resign from council.
“Upon further reflection and community support, I have determined that . . . was premature and is not in the best interest of the village, this body, or my constituents,” Frost wrote. “I will therefore remain in my seat as a member of the Oxford Village Council.”
Frost went on to pledge that he “will uphold the professional values of this council in an effort to not have a repeat of the situation that occurred.”
“I suggest that we personally and as a council, reflect on the values of our community, (the) progress we have made, and (the) solutions that are yet to come,” he wrote. “The opinions of each member of this council are critical to the democratic process of this municipality.”
Frost also encouraged village President Sue Bossardet “to be ever vigilant” when conducting council meetings and “redirect any future dialogue the instant it becomes disrespectful.”
Frost’s remarks were not well received by Councilman Erik Dolan.
“Since the 1700s in America and definitely before, legislators of not a thin-skinned nature have engaged in passionate, deliberate, contentious and quite often, more often than not, profane debate. That’s a tradition this country has,” he said.
“Regardless of whether today’s younger generations are comfortable with that, regardless of whether they feel the need to throw up a red stress card and walk away, that’s the world that we live in.”
Dolan indicated he’s “accustomed” to this type of strong dialogue given the almost 30 years he spent in the public safety field and the military prior to that.
“I have no intention of holding anybody’s hand,” he said.
Referring back to the workshop, Dolan noted he was taken aback when Frost posed the question to him, “why are you even here if you don’t believe the village provides services?”
“In the immediate moment, I was actually at a loss for words,” Dolan said. “I was frankly shocked (by) Mr. Frost, who typically is relatively timid and meek, and it caught me off guard.”
In answer to the aforementioned question, Dolan said, “Governmental accountability and increasing services for the village is why I’m here.”
He went on to say while Frost may be satisfied with a base level of services such as “simply being able to turn on the water,” his “standards are a little bit higher than that for the village.”
“I certainly don’t have any intention of settling for . . . being able to turn on your water,” Dolan said.
In his written statement to council, Frost noted that he’s provided a survey link on his Facebook page, entitled Joe Frost Oxford Village Council Member, “to determine what (municipal) services are meeting the needs of our residents and where we can find solutions for improvement.”
“In the coming weeks, and at our council meetings, I would like to share this information and use it as a tool to determine the needs of our residents,” Frost wrote.
Dolan accused Frost of “possibly creating a self-promoting Facebook page” for “some future political step.”
Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth reminded her fellow officials that council is made up of five different members with five different viewpoints.
“It is very important to respect all the opinions that don’t match yours” and “understand that someone’s not stupid just because they have an opinion that doesn’t match yours,” she said.
“Let’s just be respectful of everybody and understand people have bad days, things get built up, the budget’s always horrible. Let’s just take a deep breath and move on. It’s over. The budget’s over.”
Village President Sue Bossardet expressed regret over what happened at the budget workshop and her failure to control it as the meeting’s chairperson.
“I apologize for what happened at that meeting and I accept full responsibility,” she said. “We were having a spirited discussion and it turned so fast, I didn’t have . . . time to react to it and I apologize for not doing that to the rest of the council.”
“I think that we all need to be respectful of each other,” Bossardet added. “I think it’s healthy sometimes to have a spirited discussion, but what that turned into was not something that I’m proud (of).”