The chairman of the Anne Arundel County Council ordered the chambers to be evacuated after a woman refused to take her seat during a public hearing on Tuesday.
At the beginning of each council meeting, the chairman opens the floor to public comment. Members of the public are given two minutes to address any topic that's not on the agenda.
Karen Delimater of Glen Burnie was ordered to leave by police after she ran longer than her allotted two minutes and refused to step away from the microphone. She was then barred from entry. After that, all attendees were asked to step into the lobby during a brief recess that was called after the disruption.
Delimater and several members of her family have become fixtures at the public hearings. They have railed against topics ranging from the council's use of the word "emergency" to denote an agenda item that requires immediate action, to allegations of constitutional violations, saying that limiting comments to two minutes is a violation of their freedom of speech.
A showdown between Council Chairman Derek Fink and Delimater had been brewing for months. In December, moments after being appointed as chairman, Fink had to bang his gavel after Delimater made disparaging comments about then-councilman Daryl Jones, who had been sentenced to federal prison. In recent meetings, Fink has had to use his gavel even more, and motion to police who sit in the back of each meeting.
Normally, Delimater takes her seat. But on Tuesday, things got out of hand after Delimater went longer than her allotted two minutes, then refused to sit down after Fink banged his gavel over and over.
After the meeting, Delimater contacted Patch stating that an email from the council indicated the public comment period is three minutes, not two. Delimater was referencing an email sent to the public at the beginning of each month, with an attachment that shows items on the proposed agenda.
The body of the email does indicate three minutes for public comment—but the attachment states two minutes.
Before the public comment period is opened each meeting, Fink also reads from the council's rules, stating that two minutes is given to the attendants to speak, and a timer in front of the speakers ticks away the seconds before they must conclude their statement.
Council's Administrative Officer Beth Jones said the email in question is sent by the IT Department, but the correct time is listed on the attachment—two minutes.
The mention of three minutes was a mistake, and has been corrected for future emails, Jones said.