Health officials

Mohave County health officials Melissa Palmer, left, and Denise Burley speak at a Board of Supervisors meeting late last year.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors last week discussed possible revisions to county procedures on what speakers would, or would not, be permitted to say during the county’s “call to the public.” Although the proposed changes were disregarded by the board of supervisors, the board’s chairman has been urged to curb future abuse toward staff by Mohave County residents.

For weeks, the county’s governing board has been subjected to slurs, insults and personal attacks in reference to measures taken against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And when Kingman resident Jennifer Jones Esposito took to the podium on Tuesday, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors knew what to expect.

Esposito was allotted three minutes of time to address the board at Tuesday’s meeting during the county’s “call to the public.” Esposito used the majority of her time at the podium to hurl abuse at supervisors, referring to Chairman Buster Johnson as an incompetent coward, and to referring to 46-year-old District 1 Supervisor and former Kingman Vice Mayor Travis Lingenfelter, as “little boy.” She questioned their knowledge of Arizona’s open meeting law. During Esposito’s initial tirade, Johnson threatened to have Esposito removed from the meeting if she continued to abuse the board or county staff members.

The incident preceded a discussion by the Board of Supervisors on possible new provisions to the county’s rules of order, which might otherwise have allowed supervisors to silence members of the public who spoke objectionably at county meetings. The board ultimately declined to pursue any changes to the county’s existing ordinance on free speech during the call to the public.

At the board’s Aug. 16 meeting, supervisors agreed to add additional stipulations to forms required for county residents to speak during the call to the public. Speakers were warned that their respective speaking privileges would be terminated should they choose to verbally attack or impugn board members, staff or other speakers. A proposal by Lingenfelter on Tuesday also would have required speakers to state how their comments would relate to the board’s business.

Members of the public addressed the board on Lingenfelter’s proposal. Esposito once again returned to the podium.

“I must be one of the only people in this room who has read the entire body of the state’s open meeting law,” Esposito told the board. “We have normal first amendment protections during the call to the public, and there’s a very narrow definition of how the public body can restrict speech during the call to the public. But people have every right to redress grievances in any way they see fit.”

Esposito said it was the right of members of the community to criticize performance by their elected officials that they believed to be poor or inadequate.

“You can’t silence free speech because you don’t like someone’s point of view,” she said. “Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean you have the right to limit free speech.”

Esposito’s husband, Jeff Esposito, also addressed the board. He used his allotted time during the debate’s public hearing to tell board members that the topic was a slippery slope. He also informed Supervisors Johnson and Jean Bishop that they should move to China, in reference to their vote on a previous topic of discussion before the board.

Bullhead City resident Scotty McClure also spoke at the meeting, during which he presented the board with a print of Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech.”

“I’m getting tired of seeing freedom of speech getting chipped away,” McClure said. “They’ve done it with the second amendment – they keep chipping away at it. And now you’re chipping away at free speech.”

Lingenfelter didn’t disagree with the speakers, but expressed his disagreement with name-calling and slurs during the county’s public meetings. Mohave County Manager Sam Elters, whose staff have received their own share of abuse for the past several months, concurred with Lingenfelter’s objection.

“I object to the language and personal attacks on county staff,” Elters said. “These are professionals, and they do the best job they can based on the information they have. If there is disagreement, we understand, and no one’s perfect. But to attack our integrity, our personal beliefs and us, personally, is unacceptable. There’s no excuse for it.”

Johnson, however, asserted his belief that the county’s “call to the public” was unnecessary in the first place.

“I disagree that people have a right to have a ‘call to the public’,” Johnson said. “If we’re going to have a town hall, we should have a town hall. But we have a meeting to do, and I think this country is getting away from all the rules we’ve had until now. I think civility is something we need to put into these meetings. People can still disagree, but if I were a business owner looking to come to Mohave County, and I watched one of our meetings, I wouldn’t bring my business here.”

Mohave County Supervisor Hildy Angius, however, appeared to believe that criticism was the right of Mohave County residents – but that the board’s chairman should use his or her own judgment in determining what would be permitted.

“If the chairman finds something outrageous, it should be the chair’s decision to revoke someone’s speaking privileges,” Angius said. “Even when I was the board’s chairwoman, there were times when I had to stop people. But there might be a time when the entire county comes to tell us we’re doing a rotten job, and they should be allowed to do that. We have a system that’s worked for almost 10 years, and we’re talking about changing something that’s worked 99% of the time.”

The board voted 3-2 to maintain new rules established on Aug. 16.

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(21) comments

Joe Nobody

I wonder if someone could get up in front of them and say the racists things that Gould's appointee got away with? He defended her right to do so...

Yes, they were her FB posts.

1502

Taliban Trump made it ok to call names,lie and be rude. Havasu has reallly went down hill the last couple years. I see flags around Havasu that say 11111biden. What do you think our kids see. You can be vulgar and disrespectful.

NorthLong

The Big Bozo must have been at the meeting. There is nobody else in LHC that can hurl insults like him.

BigBob

nl - Who is this "Big Bozo" you're talking about? No one else mentioned him/her. Out of curiosity can we EVER look forward to a time when you will actually post something of substance or are you just so childish this kind of trash is all we can expect from you?.

#remove46

Want a bet?? Watch the City Council Meeting. Angriest and rudest people I've ever seen.

Third Eye

So sad. I have lived here almost 50 years and this place is just horrible now. If I could move I would.

NorthLong

We just did!!!![smile]

BigBob

nl - You moved? I thought I heard a great sigh across the city. Can we now expect you to stop posting here or will you continue to make a fool out of yourself?

NorthLong

I can be anywhere and still make you look foolish.

BigBob

nl - Sorry to report that the only person who ever looks foolish when you weigh in here is you. And if you no longer live here why are bothering to comment here? Don't you have a new city and people to show juts what a fool you are? Oh, wait a minute. Their newspaper might have some standards - what a bizarre concept.

NorthLong

"juts"?

Yes, newspapers have standards here that wouldn't allow idiots like you post your insulting trash. Comments sections here are much more civil, unlike TNH.

Very Stable Genius 2020

The law doesn’t require a “call to the public”. Also, 90% of the time these people are complaining and criticizing the board or trying to get them to take some action on issues they have no jurisdiction over which is how we’ve gotten all of these ridiculous resolutions from the Board. At any rate, Jones-Esposito is a vile, nasty person who has demonstrated that she cannot be civil and control her mouth. She should be given a “time out” from public comment and get some professional help for her issues.

Joe Nobody

VSG, Look her up on YouTube and Quartzsite...very entertaining! Minus the Esposito

#remove46

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

BigBob

It is fascinating how Mohave County is "controlled" by Republicans and yet they are the loudest protestors of any group. How soon before they storm the county complex?

1947

Give your stupid bias a rest Herbie!

BigBob

47 - Who is this "Herbie" you have suddenly started whining about? You are aware those little voices in your head can only be heard by you - right?

Too old for this

Nowhere in the article was the political party of the complainer mentioned at all, so how did you decide that they were all Republicans. From the quoted comments aimed at the Board, it sounds more like you were the offending party, but dressed in drag to disguise yourself.

BigBob

twosie - Now who are you talking about, "it sounds more like you were the offending party...?" And what in the world does this mean, "... but dressed in drag to disguise yourself." Disguise whose-self? Seriously if you cannot make your comment tactfully say something, just stop!

1502

This entire area has the rudest people with zero respect for anyone.. It has gotten read since Taliban Trump.

#remove46

I've said it for 20 years, and it still holds true...the angriest people I've every encountered.

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