by Geoff Fox
The citizen comment period of the August 9 meeting included issues aired by a downtown property owner about her business and interactions with local people and officials.
Rachael Truitt came to the August town meeting to address a few issues she had that involved the police and the wife of the mayor.
Before the start of that particular part of the meeting, Mayor Tim Smith told everyone the parameters of citizen’ s comments, which he had not done in previous meetings under his administration.
The agenda for the meeting, which is available at the back of the room at each meeting, states each person would be “limited to 5 minutes per individual” and the mayor reserves the right to reduce the time “if deemed necessary” to conduct town business.
Truitt addressed town officials by starting with the “hateful slander” directed toward her, her husband, and his business.
She said her husband was wrongfully accused of stealing a vehicle, and police agencies from Morgan County and Hancock came to them with accusations of grand theft auto.
When provided legal documentation of the vehicle ownership, police realized there was no wrongdoing.
“To this day, the vehicle is still in our possession, as it should be, and is licensed, tagged, and registered legally through the state of Maryland,” Truitt said.
The couple allowed the person who made the complaint to get their belongings from the vehicle and offered to have police with body cams oversee the collection.
People should hear both sides of a story before they run with one side, she added.
A second incident involving a job done on a vehicle was dismissed in court by a judge.
Truitt’ s husband recently purchased the former Douglas body shop building and property across the street from Steve Douglas.
The process took 77 days for completion, Truitt said.
Truitt said she had heard negative things about the food truck on one of the lots , including that it was rarely open.
“As business owners, we do not go, and won’t go, on he-said-she-said,” she said. “We conduct our business affairs on facts.”
Over those 77 days, Truitt said they watched and saw the food truck open, and the owner kept the area clean and seemed “very nice,” which is why the Truitts wanted the owner to stay.
Truitt alleged the food truck’s main critic was Linda Smith, the wife of the mayor.
Truitt claimed the dispute between the food truck and Smith was over personal matters.
After meeting with the food truck business, Truitt told her she wanted the business to stay.
It was also at this time Truitt said they were made known of the town’s ordinance regarding mobile homes and vehicles. Truitt said she wanted to help the owner work out the problem.
“We had no intention of making her leave,” she said. “The only thing we asked her was for her to move the trailer sideways as we would be needing this parking lot for other things as well.”
An ordinance about mobile homes and travel trailers was brought to Truitt’s attention, she said, but their RV had already been in town for four years at that point.
Five minutes into Truitt’ s remarks, Mayor Smith cut her comments off, noting her five minutes of time was up.
This was the first instance where Smith has called time on citizen comments during his term as mayor.
Truitt asked if her husband could also get his five minutes of public comment, but Smith denied that request.
When Truitt stated she was getting to the part that was about town business, namely the ordinance discussion, Smith said he would not allow her any further time.
“Are you afraid? Are you afraid of the facts that are about to be presented?” she asked the mayor.
Smith again told Truitt her five minutes were up and to take her seat.
Truitt left the meeting room to have a conversation with another audience member in the hallway but did not return to the room.
A special town public meeting about the mobile home ordinance in the Town of Hancock was held on Monday, August 15.