CHATHAM – The town's representative on the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates has filed a resolution accusing County Commission Ronald Beaty of violating the county's code of conduct.
Randi Potash said Facebook and Twitter posts by Beaty that were critical of the assembly were counter to a section of the code that calls for elected and appointed county officials to avoid using social media to address pending issues, employees or county officials.
“I think he needs to be called out on the things that he does that really erode public respect for elected officials,” she said. The posts, she added, violate public trust and confidence in county government, which is struggling with an “identity crisis,” she said.
In a statement, Beaty called the resolution “politically motivated” and said that in his posts he was exercising his Constitutionally-protected right of freedom of speech.
“As a Cape-wide elected public official, I am answerable to the voters who put me into office, not the Assembly of Delegates, some of whom, like the bizarre self-important Chatham Delegate, appear to be rather thin skinned petty politicians that take unwarranted offense at being criticized,” Beaty wrote in the statement.
The assembly, he added, has “no legal authority to dictate what a commissioner says or does not say.” He did abstain from voting on the code of conduct two years ago, and since it is not an ordinance, it has no legal standing, he said.
Potash noted that Beaty signed the approval of the code of conduct along with the two other county commissioners. If he did not support it, he should not have signed it, she said.
“I think he's really cowardly,” she said.
The dust-up is symptomatic of the tension between the assembly and the commission. At this Wednesday's meeting, the assembly was scheduled to vote on a proposal to eliminate the county commissioners and replace them with a strong county administrator.
The assembly was also scheduled to discuss and vote on the resolution at this Wednesday's meeting, but the item was crossed out on a revised agenda put out early Monday. In an email, assembly clerk Janice O'Connell said Speaker Suzanne McAuliffe of Yarmouth determined that the resolution would require more time to discuss than was allotted. Whether Potash's resolution will be on the agenda for the assembly's next meeting on Dec. 4 will be up to McAuliffe, according to O'Connell.
On his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts, Beaty consistently attacks and belittles the assembly and its members. He refers to the county legislative branch as “spendthrift” and “inept.” He refers to delegates as “clueless idiots” and “infantile.”
“I apologize for nothing that I have said,” Beaty wrote in his statement, “and stand by my expressed opinions, actions and statements which are Constitutionally protected by our First Amendment right to freedom of speech and which all American citizens possess.”
Beaty's posts are mean-spirited and don't contribute to the conversation, Potash said, adding that if he has problems with the assembly, he should attend the meetings and make his concerns known.
“He doesn't show up,” she said. “He just writes mean things on Twitter and Facebook. I think it's cowardly. If he has an issue with the assembly, he should come and have some courage and talk with us.”
County Commission Chair Ronald Bergstrom said he supported the resolution and felt it was the right venue to address Potash's concerns.
“There's only three commissioners and if we made a public statement against [Beaty] it would be seen as an intercommissioner fight,” said Bergstrom, a Chatham resident.
He said it's important that the commission and assembly have a good working relationship to effectively and efficiently deliver county services, despite the current “uncertain environment,” and Beaty's posts have “made it very uncomfortable for people who work for us.”
“I think we have to show that Barnstable County is a place that respects people, no matter their political affiliation, race or sexual orientation,” Bergstrom said.