Amherst Supervisor Barry Weinstein had a resident thrown out of Monday night’s Town Board meeting for monopolizing the lectern during several of the board’s public hearings and ignoring repeated requests to sit down and behave.
Williamsville resident Thomas Frank was escorted from the council chambers by the assistant police chief without incident. Monday marked the first time Weinstein has had anyone ejected from a board meeting.
“He was more disruptive than usual,” Weinstein said after the meeting. “I didn’t do it lightly.”
A regular attendee of both Amherst and Williamsville board meetings, Frank speaks at great length on a meandering array of topics at every opportunity, often reluctant to leave the lectern when his speaking time has expired.
His themes typically revolve around the environment or history, and have elicited eye rolling, pleading, rebukes and gavel banging from elected officials because of his aggressive speaking style and his propensity of straying from the topic at hand.
As a resident of the town and village, however, he has the same right to be heard as all other residents who come to speak before the boards. In fact, he is usually met with polite forebearance by the Village Board.
Weinstein, however, is more no-nonsense when it comes to Amherst Town Board meetings. The Amherst board had seven public hearings Monday night, an unusually high number, and Frank had already spoken off topic during two of the hearings when things escalated.
The supervisor interrupted Frank the first time he spoke, saying that Frank’s comments had nothing to do with the public hearing issue. Frank responded by collecting his things and storming out, only to return and speak at the next public hearing.
At the public hearing after that, regarding a resolution to require the installation of neighborhood sidewalks, Frank again got up to speak, ignoring a plea from Weinstein to sit down and let other waiting neighborhood residents have their turn.
That’s when Weinstein asked Assistant Police Chief Charles Cohen to escort Frank out of the chambers. Council Member Mark Manna interjected, asking Frank if he would agree to sit quietly.
“Mr. Frank, if you agree to just sit there and be observant and respectful, I’m fine with you staying,” he said.
Weinstein responded by saying, “Assistant chief, the chair is asking you to remove him.”
Manna then challenged the ruling of the chair. When Weinstein was silent, Manna said, “Are you going to ignore the Rules of Order? If you do so, you are no better than Mr. Frank, who is ignoring the Rules of Order.”
Weinstein subsequently asked if his ruling should be overturned. Council members Guy Marlette, Barbara Nuchereno and Steven Sanders voted no, and Manna and Council Member Richard “Jay” Anderson voted yes.
Frank was escorted out after asking for handcuffs and requesting to return after the public hearings were over so he could speak during the public expression period.
That led Manna to ask, “How long is he removed for?”
Weinstein answered, “For the rest of the day.”