Some residents vented their ongoing frustrations Monday night during what at times was a raucous Danville City Commission meeting.
The tone was set when local attorney Mark Morgan, who was listed as a speaker on the agenda, once again leveled accusations of selective code enforcement initiated against him by former Interim City Manager John W.D. Bowling and Mayor Bernie Hunstad.
Morgan previously told the commission he believes Bowling and Hunstad retaliated against him for speaking out at a July meeting about what he charged was improper action taken by Bowling in directing Planning and Zoning staff to issue a permit.
Morgan said in August he thought it was more than a coincidence that his property at 433 S. Third St. was cited for being out of compliance with the city’s abandoned property ordinance just over a week after his public criticism.
Morgan had the dilapidated house demolished for about $21,000, he said.
On Monday, Morgan read information from Freedom of Information Act requests showing 46 properties on a list of abandoned properties, less than half of which were subject to enforcement action. He said there were a number of other properties not on the list in considerably worse condition.
As Morgan made allegations about Bowling and Hunstad directing staff to cite him and personally inspecting his property, Hunstad told Morgan to go through legal channels if he wanted to address his complaints. Hunstad said Morgan was merely airing political grievances and repeatedly told him to sit down.
Hunstad has denied Morgan’s allegations that he personally inspected Morgan’s property or unfairly targeted him.
Morgan continued to speak, noting properties owned by Hunstad campaign supporters Tim Montgomery and former Mayor Hugh Coomer which were not subjected to code enforcement. After Assistant Police Chief Tony Gray eventually came to the podium to tell Morgan to step down from the microphone, Morgan continued to talk before reluctantly yielding the microphone.
“It’s the worst abuse of power from any tribunal I've ever seen," said Morgan, who also approached Hunstad during a break in the meeting on several occasions.
Morgan said the use of police to control a speaker on the agenda is unprecedented, and he resented Gray and other officers being put in a compromising position.
Hunstad said Morgan was on the agenda regarding improvements to code enforcement and used that legitimate discussion topic as a way of airing his personal and political agenda.
Hunstad said Morgan has been misleading in his statements about the city’s action, overlooking the fact that his property was unquestionably out of compliance when he was cited.
Hunstad said Morgan and others who have regularly used the public portion of city meetings to criticize him are only intending to disrupt and hijack the meeting for their own purposes. Despite the anger being expressed at meetings like Monday’s, the mayor said he does not want to limit participation.
“If we’re going to have meaningful discussion with the public involved, we’re going to have to have some level of civility,” Hunstad said.
What already was an emotionally charged meeting became even more unsettled when several people in the audience were asked to stop speaking until recognized, some of whom also were involved in an ongoing dispute over the tree-trimming business that J.L. Banks operates on property he is purchasing from Montgomery on Duncan Hill.
Nathaniel Doneghy, whose sister lives on Duncan Hill, repeatedly stated that Hunstad is ignoring the black community, remarks Hunstad called outlandish.