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Officials, knowing your voice matters, try to shush you up

Stacy Lee is rebuked for making public comment and ordered out of a public meeting. Mayor Ryle Chastain of McMinnville is intolerant, testy and impatient and doesn’t care city voters were denied their right to vote in city elections if they lived outside the city limit but owned property in the city. (Photo McMinnville city government)

McMINNVILLE, Tenn., Nov. 27, 2022 — In the special meeting of the Board of Mayor and Alderman called on August 30, 2022, there was a vote regarding absentee voting for non-resident property owners within the city. This meeting was conducted without public comment.

In regular meetings, there is a time for public comment. However, this was a special meeting called. During this meeting, when citizens of the public spoke up in protest of the passing of the proposal, they were point-blank demanded to leave. 

Stacy Lee, the founder of Truth HQ™, spoke up, saying that “It’s unconstitutional, what you’re doing. You’re breaking your oath to the constitution!”

Mayor Ryle Chastain pointed at Ms. Lee and said, “If you interrupt this meeting again — you can leave. You can leave!” 

As Ms. Lee tried to speak, Mayor Chastain spoke over her saying, “If you continue to disrupt this meeting, you’re going to be — ma’am: Leave! Leave! Leave! Or I’ll have you escorted out by the police.”

“This is my right and I’m —” Ms. Lee started.

“Ma’am —” Mayor Chastain interrupted.

“Are you allowing public speaking, sir?” another member of the public asked.

“No, we’re not. It’s not on the agenda.” Mayor Chastain said.

“That’s not fair, sir,” the citizen stated calmly.

After looking at the audience, Mayor Chastain quickly rose from his seat and left the camera’s view along with another member of the board.

In this audio, you can hear a board member say, “This does not affect the people of McMinnville.”

In response, the same citizen responded with, “To property owners, it does.”

Later in this meeting, as soon as the motion passes (at around 13:03) you can hear a barely audible “Boo” spoken by that citizen.

Immediately, Mayor Chastain points at the citizen and says, “Get him out!” to the police officer, who then escorts the citizen out of the meeting.

(Timestamp 1:37-13:20 City of McMinnville August 30, 2022 Special Meeting of Mayor and Aldermen).

Right of redress

Kathy Goldschmidt, a former worker in the House of Representatives and the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the “Congressional Management Foundation,” provided a brief history addressing the First Amendment right to petition the government (See here, 2022). In her study, she asserts that the history of petitioning the government was a historically legal process, similar to court-like filings, which were tracked, reported, and made public. Although there is still a process of petitioning the House and Senate, “there is no longer a culture or mandate for due process or transparency of those petitions. And messages from constituents are treated as free speech, to be taken up or ignored at will according to the priorities, interests, and politics of an individual rather than the chamber, as a whole” (par. 7). 

The United States has a form of government that is unique; it is created by the people, for the people, and is supposed to be governed with their consent. The people are the heart of America. If the people aren’t important to our representatives, we should elect those who value who we are: Patriotic Americans.

In government, it doesn’t matter whether or not we agree with someone else’s opinion. The point is this: everyone has a right to voice their concerns. I don’t know one person who would speak at a government meeting for fun. Who enjoys public speaking and wasting hours of their afternoon for a meeting where they get less than 5 minutes to speak? I certainly don’t see any enjoyment in that, but I do see the necessity of it. As a matter of fact, we need to address our government when we see corruption, when we have concerns that we want resolved, and when we’ve had enough.

Silenced by elected officials

If we aren’t granted the right to petition our government, what happens? This: we aren’t allowed to speak, we are silenced, we are called a joke, we are ridiculed, and we are forgotten. Even in our Tennessee State Constitution, we have the right to instruct our representatives. Section 23 of the Tennessee State Constitution says this:

“That the citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances, or other proper purposes, by address of remonstrance.”

Section 23 of the Tennessee State Constitution

Although we have a right to instruct our representatives according to the Tennessee State Constitution, the attitudes and actions I’ve heard of and witnessed make me wonder if our representatives take either the state or U.S. Constitution seriously. 

Mayor Chastain No. 2 bullying

The manner in which the Mayor of McMinnville conducted himself on August 30, 2022, was not an isolated incident. In fact, on election day (November 8, 2022), a similar incident occurred. During the recognition of visitors at the 7:00 PM Board Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Ms. Stacy Lee took the podium to redress the local government regarding issues with the November 8, 2022 election. To Ms. Lee’s personal knowledge, there were at least 3 city residents who were not able to vote in the city election. There was an internal issue with the election software that caused the city aldermen running for election to not appear on the ballot. 3 voters were unable to vote

The Tennessee Constitution states this (emphasis added):

The elections shall be free and equal, and the right of suffrage, as hereinafter declared, shall never be denied to any person entitled thereto …”

Section 5 (part 1) of the Tennessee State Constitution

This means that all elections have to be free and equal. The right to vote should never be denied to any citizen. However, what will be done about the 3 voters who did not get to cast their vote for Aldermen on election day? If you want my guess, I say nothing. I could be wrong, but it seems that the concerns of citizens aren’t the top priority for most politicians.

I have personally seen elections won and lost by less than 10 voters in Warren County. In the November 8th election for Alderman in the City of McMinnville, Keri Curtis Morton received 919 votes, while Everett Brock received 912. This is a difference of only 7 votes (see the results from the Warren County Election Commission HERE).

In the election on August 8, 2022 for County Commissioner 1, Ron Lee received 343 votes, while his opponent, Christy Ross, received 333 votes (see the results HERE).

Cop ‘escorts’ speaker out

This is a difference of only 10 votes. This is how important election security is to voters! If 3 known voters didn’t get to vote, how many more could there be? How might elections be altered because voters were denied the right to vote because of a glitch or a faulty voting system? How is this going to be remedied by our government?

This is a serious issue, which warrants public concern, comment, and expression. However, Mayor Chastain continued to interrupt Ms. Stacy Lee to stop her from speaking on this matter. Ultimately, Ms. Lee, without getting violent or hostile, was escorted out of the meeting by the police. From my point of view, she wasn’t interrupting the Mayor (with the exception of one time when she wanted to make her point), nor did she break any law. Do you consider this reasonable? (Watch the video on Facebook at timestamp 32:01-35:40 here: City of McMinnville Board of Mayor and Aldermen November 8, 2022 Meeting).

Here’s a transcript of what happened:

Ms. Stacy Lee said this:

I was at the polling station today and we had some issues and I wanted to make sure that everybody knew that a minimum of 3 people went to vote in the city meeting that are city residents and the city aldermen were not on their ballot. And, it was an issue. The election commission had to do an incident report, but by the time it was caught, and the way it occurred, those 3 people were not allowed to vote. They were not allowed to vote in the city meeting because of the glitch that we’ve been continuously speaking about in our election presentations, especially to the county. And when I speak at the county, they ask me why I come.

I happen to be a subject matter specialist on election software systems and I speak all over, not just here,  I speak all over the state of Tennessee about software-based systems. They are, they have glitches, they have versions, they have patches, and they’re considered proprietary software, which means there’s no way you can look at it, and there’s no way to audit encrypted data. And the problem is, think about it as a systems thing, if there’s columns of data, and say they’re voting in city and county, there would be a column for the city and one for the county.

Well, okay. So if the person votes, and they’re able to vote in the city and the county, you can tally their votes. But what if that column isn’t there? So, you can’t audit something that’s not there. You can’t find it because it’s not there. So, encrypted software-based products like the one we use in our county, and the one that they want to upgrade to, which is actually Windows based, is even more hackable. So, there’s a lot of problems with these systems and one of the ways that it was presented to you guys—

At 34:43 Stacy Lee was interrupted with this statement: 

“Ms. Lee, this doesn’t have anything to do with the city.” McMinnville City Mayor Ryle Chastain interrupted.

“It’s election day and it has to do with the city election. You have citizens-” Ms. Lee responded.

“We dont- We don’t oversee the Election Commission,” Mayor Chastain interrupted again.

“I’m sorry, is this my time to talk?” Ms. Lee questioned, “This is a city meeting-”

“If you interrupt me again, you’re out of here!” Mayor Chastain said sternly.

“This is a public building and I’m-”

“You’ve had 2 minutes, I’m done with you.”

“There’s not a 2 minute limit,” Stacy offered. 

“This doesn’t-” Mayor Chastain started.

“I’ll finish. So, anyways-” Stacy interrupts. 

“Officer,  can you step in here please?” Mayor Chastain interrupts. 

“You can’t. You can’t take me out of a meeting. I haven’t committed a crime.” Ms. Lee says calmly as she shakes her head.

“You’re done! Two minutes.”

“There’s not a two minute rule for your meetings,” Stacy says as the officer walks up behind her. 

“That’s at my discretion. GET OUT! NOW. ” Mayor Chastain raises his voice.

“You’re going to help yourself elect yourself- UNELECT!” Stacy says through an anxious laugh as the officer escorts her away.

“Anybody else?” Mayor Chastain asks briskly and continues with the meeting.

Watching these meetings made me uncomfortable with the way that Mayor Chastain treated the citizens of the public. When I spoke to Stacy Lee regarding this instance, she said that in this moment she felt that her 14th Amendment right to instruct her representatives was violated (See Tennessee Constitution Amendment 14).

Violation of first amendment

As a TN citizen attending a public meeting in a public building, she states that she was denied that full right due to the mayor disagreeing with the content of her message. Ms. Lee also asserts that her First Amendment rights were violated when the mayor kept interrupting her, and then blaming her for interrupting him during her comment time.

Lee states this: “I have done a FOIA request and there are absolutely no speaking rules in the city, so he made up a time limit. Past speakers have been given at least 4 minutes before being interrupted. my 14th Amendment was violated because the officer falsely imprisoned me from being in a publicly owned property without committing a crime, denying me of due process.  You cannot trespass a citizen out of their own building without a commission of a crime.  No criminal statute was referenced, and that is why he could not put his hands on me.  I had to voluntarily exit the building due to the fear of arrest he used under the color of law.”

“So, when he was interrupting me, I felt like he was violating my right as a Tennessee citizen to instruct my Representatives under the state or U.S. Constitution. I felt that he was trying to derail my message content. That’s why I was insisted on restarting. They’re actually are no speaking rules, and I know this because I did a records request.”

Interview with Stacy Lee on November 22, 2022

Any government official who thinks of himself more highly than the people he leads, ought to rethink his priorities. More importantly, any official who doesn’t value citizens should be removed from office. Exercising the position and power in any public capacity should be done with great caution, discernment, and consideration to citizens, not with malice, disdain and apathy. Politicians are public servants. Though, if you ask anyone on the street what a public servant is. How many would say politician? Probably none.

If a public meeting isn’t the correct venue to voice public concern, then where is? 

I implore you to share your own thoughts, opinions, concerns, and grievances with the government. Whatever those may be. It’s your right and your privilege. Whether or not it is popular, it is honest. So, whether you live in a small town, the country, a suburban area, or a big city, know that your voice matters.


  1. Vox Populi

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