KINGSPORT — Alderman Jantry Shupe, absent from a work session Monday, participated as usual in a Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Tuesday evening.
Shupe, arrested over the weekend and charged with DUI by Kingsport police, took his seat alongside other BMA members just before the meeting began.
Near meeting’s end, members are given a chance to comment.
When it was Shupe’s turn he immediately said that he would not address his “situation,” other than to direct any and all questions to his out-of-city attorney.
Shupe said that “in fairness” to the city and his situation he would say no more during the board’s meeting.
Shupe said that he was sure most everyone knows the situation he was talking about — and that if there is anyone out there who doesn’t know, he would love to spend some time with them.
Shupe said his service to the city has been from a genuine commitment to Kingsport and that he is dedicated to keeping up that commitment.
None of the other BMA members made reference to Shupe or his arrest.
An elderly woman rose from the audience during public comment and commended Shupe for showing up, under the circumstances.
The woman said Shupe had been “crucified” by the media — and she chastised the rest of the BMA for not speaking up for Shupe and not thanking him for coming to the meeting.
She said Shupe deserves just as much credit as the rest of the board for all the good things happening in the city.
Mayor Dennis Phillips interrupted the woman, telling her he was going to have to call her out of order.
Phillips said public comment is intended to allow city residents a chance to provide input on matters of business before the board — not to attack the board or call out individual members for praise or for criticism.
Phillips said Shupe’s situation is a legal matter and as such not an appropriate topic for board commentary.
“It’s not up to you to reprimand the board,” Phillips told the woman.
Phillips said it was disgusting for the woman to have used the term crucify in regards to the board’s behavior toward Shupe.
“And the more you stir it, the more it’s going to grow,” Phillips said.
Later, Phillips said City Attorney Mike Billingsley will provide a review of the rules of public comment before the BMA’s next regular meeting.
Phillips said he has been too lax on enforcing those rules, but moving forward he will strictly prohibit the public from attacking board members or singling out individual members by name.