AMESBURY — The gloves are coming off in Amesbury, as councilor at-large candidate Eric Bezanson is accusing his opponent, Anne Ferguson, of abusing her powers as council president by preventing him from speaking at Tuesday night’s meeting.
At issue is a statement Ferguson made prior to the public comment portion of the meeting in which she asked that candidates for office in the upcoming elections refrain from using the time as a forum for a campaign speech and instead keep all remarks focused on the meeting itself.
Bezanson said he had planned on making some campaign-related remarks during public comment, but left after Ferguson issued her ruling. He said he felt bullied and intimidated by Ferguson’s move; and after speaking to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance and reviewing the City Charter, he felt confident that Ferguson was out of line and said he intends to file a complaint against her.
“What they did, they’re not allowed to do it,” Bezanson said. “They’re making up their own rules. It’s not in the charter and they cannot dictate what you say up there.”
According to the City Charter and the council’s rules and procedures, all public comments are to be addressed directly to the council as a whole, and people addressing the council must do so in an orderly manner and not make repetitious, slanderous or irrelevant remarks.
The rules also say that the council president can limit how long someone may speak during public comment, but there is no mention of whether the council president can restrict what is actually said.
Ferguson said she felt comfortable with her decision to prohibit campaigning during public comment because the purpose of the meeting is to accomplish City Council business, not to provide a forum for campaign speeches.