Fireworks flew on the third floor of City Hall Tuesday night when newly-elected council chair Da’Ron Wilson called in police to remove regular attendee Laurie Sandow during the public comment period. The expulsion was caught on video and followed a tense exchange between Sandow and Wilson moments into Sandow’s allotted three-minute comment period.

Sandow’s remarks began by citing New York’s “Open Meetings Laws” and accusing Wilson of colluding with the City’s staff attorney to lie to the public regarding shifting the council’s traditional Monday meetings to Tuesdays.

Wilson interrupted, asking Sandow to “please address the Council as a whole.” Sandow responded, “I am addressing the Council; do not interrupt me. Do not interrupt me.”

Wilson issued a “first warning,” to which Sandow responded, “No, I’m sorry, you are violating the laws of this Council, do not interrupt me.”

Wilson then issued a “second warning,” saying the rules “do not allow any personal names to be called,” to which Sandow replied, “Actually, that’s not in the rules – so maybe you should go home and read the rules.”

Seconds later, Wilson gestured to the back of the chamber and said, “Can you uh… yeah, you’re gone.”

Sandow’s microphone shuts off, and a uniformed Poughkeepsie Police Officer can be seen clicking on their body camera while approaching Sandow, who refuses to leave and dares the officer to arrest them.

Wilson also cites Open Meetings Law and reads from a document to the packed-house meeting attendees, emphasizing the “public does not have the right to speak. It is up to the public body to allow the public to speak at any council meeting.”

Flanked by two police officers, Sandow leans over the desk and responds, “Well guess what, the Charter gives the public the right to speak!”

Amid crosstalk, Wilson can be heard responding with, “The Charter does not say that.”

The Council rules require commenters to “not defame, intimidate, make personal affronts, make threats of violence, or use profanity” and bars “attacks or insults personally against the decisionmaker(s),” and give the Council Chair broad authority to regulate the speech of anyone speaking in the chamber – seemingly supporting Wilson’s position.

However, the City Charter, essentially the city’s constitution, mandates all Council meetings be open to the public and “include a period during which any member of the public in attendance may comment upon any aspect of city governance,” supporting Sandow’s argument. Sandow, previously arrested at a 2019 meeting for similar circumstances, was acquitted of all charges. Whether charges will be pursued for this incident remains uncertain.

The February 20 council meeting recording is available on the City of Poughkeepsie webcasting site, capturing the exchange starting at 22:20.

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