Our last story about citizens standing up against tyranny in St George, UT by pushing back on the canceling of public comment is quite similar to what has been occurring at the county level. Traditionally, both St. George City and Washington County seek input from the public on a regular basis. The city offers open public comment once a month and the county offers it twice a month. Open public comment in the city was recently suspended, while public comment in the county meetings has also been suspended and has not occurred since April 4, 2023. The county suspension of the public’s voice was not announced prior and the reasons are in question. The commissioners claimed it was due to “required meetings”, which were not posted on their website.
The regular county commissioner meetings are typically the 1st and 3rd Tuesday at 4:00 pm. Previous to April 4th, near the end of each meeting, 10 people were allotted two minutes each for public comment. Calling or emailing the commissioner’s office before noon the prior Thursday was how to claim a comment slot. After a particularly heated meeting on April 4, where the commissioners were called out for their derelict of duty, public comment spots were mysteriously filled by the next morning. The leader of the Washington County Commissioners Accountability Committee, April Pinkston, along with Shelley Scholzen and others, called soon after the April 4th meeting to schedule for public comment for the next meeting, April 18th. They were told by the administrative assistant that the slots were filled, and commenting would be unavailable for them. April was told that all 10 slots were filled the next morning on Wednesday, April 5 and Shelley called several times on Thursday, April 6, without getting through; then called again Friday, April 6, and was also told that all slots were filled by Wednesday morning. Previously, it took a fair amount of work on the committee’s part to get even 7-8 commenters, so to have all 10 slots filled immediately was highly suspect.
Brief History of the Accountability Committee
Approximately (and on average) 20-30 Washington County residents, mostly reacting to election concerns, have been attending and commenting since the August primary where House District 72’s race was decided by less than 10 votes. The people were concerned of impropriety in elections in Washington County and have been redressing these grievances since then. It seemed obvious to most that a hand count would be necessary in a race margin of so few votes. After months of petitioning, with evidence and expert testimony of problems with machines, ballots, and other concerns, the commissioners voted on March 21 to invest $225,000 in another machine to aid with elections. This was quite a shock to those in attendance who have been seeking to do away with machines, among other desires.
Washington County Commissioners Accountability Committee, which began last summer, has been asking the commissioners for more transparency, to have better communication between the people and the commissioners, and to improve election integrity. Their asks are as follows… (Note, none have been implemented).
- Tuesday meeting times to change from starting at 4 pm to a later time when more can attend
- To hold regular town halls with the public
- To allow residents to sign up to comment at the meeting, not 5 days prior, especially since the agenda rarely comes out in time for consideration
- To have a 3 minute time limit for each commenter (instead of 2 minutes)
- To do hand counting of ballots when a race is close and, generally, move away from using any machines
Too Busy for Public Comment?
The last two commissioner meetings (May 2 and May 16th) have been cut short for other meetings the commissioners had to attend and they said the public commenters who signed up last (the aforementioned 10 slots filled by the next morning) should have their turn to comment on June 6. “If they’re too busy to hear from their own constituents, then they’re too busy. Period”, April Pinkston, commented when asked about the cessation of public comment and involvement at the county level.
In order for America, as a Constitutional Republic, to function, it is the elected official’s duty to be transparent and seek for the “consent of the governed”. Is the lack of communication and involvement from the public concerning to you? Should we the people not be integral to the process? According to the founding documents of our great nation, these meetings are for “we the people” to influence and guide our representatives to be our voice and hold them accountable to the Constitution. The next county meeting is June 6. The next St. George City meeting is June 1. The public needs to continue to hold these representatives accountable and make sure the people are involved at all levels of operation. Please consider joining liberty focused groups of people who are holding the line.
A few local groups to consider
Washington County Commissioners Accountability Committee
Southern Utahns for Transparency
Liberty Action Coalition
Citizens for Constitutional Government