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Tension resurfaces at council meeting

December 02, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

After several weeks of good will, tension again bubbled over at Tuesday's Hagerstown City Council meeting.

The sharpest exchange was between Mayor Richard F. Trump and Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh, who shouted at each other during a debate on whether the Hagerstown Suns should be allowed 14 fireworks shows in 2006.

When Nigh tried to mention a letter from a resident, Trump cut her off and called "order."

Nigh pressed the mayor to let her speak, but Trump, who oversees City Council meetings, banged a gavel and repeatedly called "order." The two loudly went back and forth several times.

"This meeting won't go forward," Trump declared.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire broke the impasse by supporting Nigh's right to introduce a document into the debate. Nigh then had her say.

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Nigh, whom Trump more frequently cuts off than other council members, later cautioned the mayor, "If you call someone down, do it for all. I don't want to be singled out."

The mayor and the council got off to a rocky start in May after Trump and two new council members were sworn in. Their bickering was part of nearly every meeting.

In September, the council accused the mayor of "inappropriate behavior" and, in a letter, put him "on notice." For the last several weeks, though, the rapport had greatly improved.

A few minutes after Nigh complained about being picked on Tuesday, Trump called council members' opposition to the fireworks plan "an embarrassment."

"There again, the men outweigh the women," Nigh replied as council members adjourned, referring to a vote on the fireworks request. Trump and the council's two men - Aleshire and Lewis C. Metzner - initially supported the request; the council's three women - Nigh, Kelly S. Cromer and Alesia D. Parson-McBean - opposed it.

Immediately after the meeting ended, Parson-McBean chided Trump for consistently calling her by her first name.

When addressing council members, Trump sometimes uses their first names, but other times uses "councilman" and their last names, even for Nigh and Cromer.

For Parson-McBean, though, he usually uses only her first name.

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