DeWitt board meeting highlights rift
CLINTON — A standing room only crowd packed the courthouse as two motions on this week's DeWitt County Board agenda symbolized a rift between factions of the board.
Both of them concerned the appointment of a representative who'd answer to residents of Santa Anna Township, which includes Farmer City.
The crowd was involved — and boisterous — as chairman Sherrie Brown announced she would be nominating Jeffrey Gibbs to the seat of Tom Pruser, who was killed in a farm accident earlier in the year.
Pruser's widow, Christy Pruser, had volunteered for the position and was backed by the DeWitt County Republican Committee, for which Brown was recently voted out of as chairman. In her opening statement, Brown said she had taken criticism, but had reached out to Pruser to no avail.
A member of the crowd responded: "She's right here, interview her now!"
Applause followed, without Brown calling for a point of order. Later in the meeting, Brown backtracked after saying she'd made "attempts" to contact Pruser, admitting she only made one phone call.
"From whose phone?" another audience member shouted.
When Brown called Gibbs forward for the nomination, the crowd jeered. "I didn't expect this big a crowd," Gibbs said. "For a second I thought I was in Ferguson, Mo."
The crowd jeered louder. "This is what you want?" an indignant onlooker again shouted.
Gibbs said he wanted to do the right thing — then rejected the nomination by the chairman. The crowd erupted again, this time with applause as Gibbs exited the courtroom while theatrically waving with a smile.
Brown then tried to ignore the motion to appoint Pruser when board member Dan Ballenger of District A objected. He was ignored.
Ballenger left his seat, standing directly in front of Brown. "Maybe you can't see me," he said, adding that he would not have his motion — which has been on the agenda for three meetings — ignored.
Brown said she, as chairman, was the only one who could make such an appointment, and she reiterated that Pruser had not agreed to an interview with her.
"You lost the interview in the primary elections, and that just tears you up," Ballenger said.
Later in the evening, board member Camille Redman motioned for a no confidence vote in regards to the chairman, saying it has been 18 months since the county has been able to get anything done due to Brown's "tyranny rule."
The motion failed to pass, as five voted in favor, with two abstentions and three votes against. Abstentions count in the negative.