Historian says supervisor tried to silence her
The highly debated issue of the Confederate statue that sits atop a pedestal in the Courthouse Square once again became a heated topic at the Monday, April 12 Charlotte County Board of Supervisors meeting when one citizen said a supervisor did not allow citizens to speak at a recent committee meeting on the issue.
Kathy Liston took to the podium during the public comment portion of the board meeting to say she was “accosted” by Supervisor Kay Pierantoni. She said Pierantoni told by her she was not wanted at any discussions on the Confederate statute issue.
Liston, a published historian and archaeologist, says she and others in the county should be included in the meetings to discuss the fate of the statue.
“At the close of the meeting, Ms. Pierantoni accosted me at the back of the room – in front of everyone – and told me she did not want me (personally) to participate in these meetings,” Liston said. “When I pointed out that was not what others wanted, she raised her voice saying she didn’t care, she was ‘an elected official, and if I wanted to talk, I should run for office.’ She was an elected official, and she would decide how things would be. ‘This meeting wouldn’t have happened without her.’ She repeated these things several times.”
Last August, despite several citizens expressing concerns about the Confederate statue, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) decided not to make a decision whether the statue should remain or be removed in hopes “things will cool down.” They said they would possibly discuss the issue after the beginning of 2021.
During the March 8, BOS meeting, citizen Larry Clark addressed the board during the public comment period to remind them of their decision and request that something is done.
“If you are going to have a committee, it should reflect the ethnicity of the whole community,” Clark said.
Clark also said that he believed no BOS members should be on the committee.
During that meeting, Pierantoni said the issue falls under the facilities committee.
“This is a highly charged situation,” Pierantoni said. “I’m suggesting let’s start with a round table discussion, and I do think supervisors need to be involved.”
Pierantoni offered, with the approval of the other member of the facilities committee, Supervisor Tony Reeves that they would set up a meeting for discussion.
The remaining supervisors agreed.
The meeting was held Friday, March 26, at the County Administration Building. Those invited to take part in the committee included Cora St. John, Darlene Foster, Dr. Hezteine Foster, William McCargo, Shane Newcombe, and Monique Williams, along with supervisors Pierantoni and Reeves.
According to Liston, she was asked to participate in the meeting by McCargo and Williams.
“Ms. Pierantoni began by saying that this was a facilities committee meeting and, as such, the public (i.e., me) could not speak,” Liston said. “Mr. McCargo and Ms. Williams said that they wanted me to participate. She ignored them and then went on to say that she and Mr. Reeves would not be speaking, and she would go on to speak more than anyone else. Someone (I don’t recall who) began to speak about the statue, and Ms. Pierantoni cut them off, saying, ‘we’ll get to that later; let’s address other things first.’ No one was sure what those other things were. Finally, the general discussion began with Ms. Pierantoni interrupting to comment and tell some participants they needed to stop talking. She repeatedly told me to be quiet even when I was answering a question that had been specifically asked of me.”
During her time at the podium, Liston continued to point out how the meetings were not advertised and again how Pierantoni did not want her to be a part of the meetings.
“Ms. Pierantoni then double-downed on my not participating and told them that I could only participate if one of them wanted to give up their seat in the group,” Liston said. “Mr. McCargo told her he was insulted by that. She then went on to berate Mr. McCargo and Ms. Williams, saying they had talked too much. She continued in this vein until I finally asked her if she couldn’t put aside whatever her personal animosity to me was, so we could all work together for the betterment of the county. Her response was a loud ‘no.’ Supervisor Pierantoni’s attempt to control the dialogue is exactly why Larry Clark said he wanted no supervisors involved. She was unprofessional and divisive.”
In an email exchange that Pierantoni shared with the Charlotte Gazette, the supervisor wrote, “While any committee meeting is open to the public, I believe this meeting will be best served by having a small roundtable discussion.”
Pierantoni went on to write, “I am a person that believes in building up rather than tearing down. History needs to be remembered; all aspects need to be told. The statute on the Courthouse grounds is of a Confederate soldier.
Supervisor Fore, herself a distinguished veteran, stated that we needed to remember that the monument was to all who served and died in that war. It’s not about debating the many causes of the war; it’s about remembering ancestors who fought and died.”
When it comes to Liston’s accusations of advertised meetings and who may speak following the Monday, April 12 public comment by Liston, Pierantoni said the facilities committee meetings are advertised on the county website.
“Committee meetings are not a time for public comment,” Pierantoni said. “I explained to the roundtable participants that this format was chosen as a first step. Voices can be drowned out if there are too many participants and no structure. At the end of the March meeting, I gave the roundtable panel several choices. Continue as originally structured for another month, open the discussion up to whomever (more community meetings) or stop. They all chose to continue with the roundtable forum.
“I’m doing my best to give a chance for people with opposing views to come together to discuss this issue. As stated, I will try again this month.
“I will do my job as an elected leader as best I can, which includes not being bullied by Ms. Liston.”
The second meeting of the facilities committee is scheduled for Friday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building.