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Brandon mayor threatens to slap councillor

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BRANDON -- Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst uttered a threat of violence toward Coun. Stephen Montague following Monday’s city council meeting, because she believed he disregarded directives from the chair.

"Stephen, if you ever show disregard with that microphone on again, I will slap you on the back of the head so hard your head will spin," Decter Hirst was recorded as saying by a Brandon Sun reporter.

Earlier in the meeting, Decter Hirst requested that Montague follow the protocol that he direct his comments to her, as the chairwoman of city council, when asking questions of a resident on a condominium approval debate.

Decter Hirst reminded Montague of the breach in protocol with this comment: "Councillor Montague, I’m going to give our guests latitude, but I am going to get you to direct you to come to the chair."

Montague replied, "It’s your chair," then continued on with his questions to the resident.

It was immediately after the meeting had adjourned, with the chain of office still around her neck, that Decter Hirst uttered her threat.

Her verbal exchange with Montague was short, but forceful, and Montague appeared angry afterwards.

When reached by the Brandon Sun, Decter Hirst offered the following statement about her comments by email.

"It was in relation to some unparliamentarian comments he had made during the course of the debate that evening and the issue has now been resolved," Decter Hirst wrote. "I will not be making any further comment on it."

Montague said he has not spoken with Decter Hirst since the outburst, and was surprised about her actions.

"If you look at any of our meetings, there’s times when proper order is not always followed, not just by myself but we’re all guilty of it," Montague said. "Is this a situation that warrants a quote like, what was her quote? That she’ll slap me so hard my head will spin? So a minor slip-up warrants a threat of violence from the mayor?

"To me, it’s rather interesting and rather unfortunate that she would take that measure when any one that observes our meetings knows that there are occasional minor slipups to procedure but I’m singled out and her words speak for itself on what that warrants."

Montague said Decter Hirst has not offered an apology to him for her remarks inside the council chamber, and that he had asked her to clarify her remarks.

"I asked her why she was saying that and she refused to comment," Montague said. "Since that, I have not heard from her and that to me is quite unfortunate. To have that public form of disrespect shown towards me in such an aggressive manner is, to me, is not becoming of what we as city leaders should be showing our residents how we treat one another. When violence and other things are used to make that point, what does that do when we look at things like bullying and what we are teaching our kids? That’s not the way to behave."

When asked if he would accept an apology from Decter Hirst, should one be offered, Montague said, "I expect an apology from her."

Montague said the incident wouldn’t affect his working relationship with Decter Hirst, as it was already strained to begin with.

"It’s been tough at best until now," Montague said.

"I don’t know if this makes it any worse. I make no apologies that I will question things at the table and I make no apologies that I vote against some things she supports. I’m there to represent the people that put me in that seat. I’ll continue to do it and I’ll continue to ask questions and I refuse to stay quiet if I need information or if I disagree with something."

The exchange surprised other councillors, but longtime politicians said there are times when personalities, or the ideas those personalities have, clash.

"I think I will withhold comment on this one," said Coun. Jim McCrae (Meadows). "I don’t know what to say. There are times when legislators get on each other’s nerves, but beyond that, I don’t think there’s anything I can say that’s very helpful."

kborkowsky@brandonsun.com

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