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Thrasher: Watts denied him right to talk ethics ordinance to fiscal court

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Thursday, June 21, 2018 — Don Thrasher, the Republican candidate for Nelson County Judge Executive, says that Judge Executive Dean Watts illegally barred him from speaking at Tuesday’s Nelson Fiscal Court meeting.

Thrasher told the Gazette in an interview Thursday that he wanted to talk to Fiscal Court about his suggested changes to the county’s ethics ordinance.

DON THRASHER

The ordinance lacks sufficient “teeth,” Thrasher said. Among his suggested changes are increased penalties for violations of the ethics ordinance.

But Thrasher never had a chance to address the court.

Moments before the meeting was about to begin, Thrasher asked Watts if he could have three minutes to talk to the court about the proposed ethics ordinance changes.

In his press release, Thrasher states that “in a move reminiscent of a Soviet-Era dictatorship, Watts told Thrasher he would not allow it because it could affect the upcoming November election.”

The denial amounts to what Thrasher calls “unbridled discretion,” which means that Watts has not been consistent with his policy of allowing political candidates to speak at fiscal court meetings.

As Thrasher notes, prior to the May 22 primary election, Watts allowed both Thrasher and Magistrate candidate Gary Coulter opportunities to speak up during fiscal court meetings. To not allow Thrasher a chance to talk to fiscal court now amounts to Watts unfairly using his discretion to allow — or not allow — someone to address the court.

Thrasher said he understood Watts’ concerns if he believed Thrasher was going to discuss his campaign or lobby for votes, but the only thing Thrasher wanted to discuss was the ethics ordinance, and Watts knew this, he said. Thrasher said he sent Watts and County Attorney Matthew Hite drafts of his proposed changes sometime earlier.

“Every citizen of Nelson County should be concerned at this abuse of power and his clear attempt to use his position to stifle opponents,” he wrote in his press release he sent to media on Thursday.

Thrasher said he will attempt to speak at the next Fiscal Court meeting and if he’s denied, he’ll be forced to seek a federal court injunction to prohibit Watts from violating his Constitutional rights in the future.

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