Former Lovettsville Town Councilwoman Renee Edmonston has said that it was Councilman Mike Dunlap’s “harsh, obvious and candid disrespect” that motivated her to step down from her seat last week, just 67 days after being elected.
In her Sept. 6 resignation email to Mayor Nate Fontaine, Edmonston wrote that she was resigning because of the “unprecedented, continued and consistent demeaning, degrading, borderline harassment behavior of [Dunlap].” Edmonston said that since she took her seat on the dais on July 1, Dunlap frequently cut off debate on issues to prevent her from rebutting and opposed requests to extend meeting times when her items were last on the agenda, but stayed after those sessions to talk with people.
“I have resigned because I am making a stand that I will not tolerate targeted unethical behavior,” she said. “As a resident of the Town of Lovettsville who sought to simply serve and give back to the community, I never imagined the level of psychological warfare would be part of the job description.”
Dunlap said that he wasn’t entirely sure what Edmonston meant by saying that he had prevented her from speaking. “I’m one member of the council and the mayor controls the time,” he said.
When asked about Edmonston’s claim, Fontaine said that he’s worked with council members before meetings to ensure that there would be enough time to go through their items.
Edmonston said that the town should have reacted to the email she sent Fontaine and Assistant Town Manager Harriet West on Aug. 7, in which she wrote that Dunlap continued to challenge her comments, ideas and suggestions.
In response to that email, Fontaine said that he would continue to facilitate collaboration among council members, noting that teamwork would be key.
“It’s unfortunate that her only recourse was to resign,” he said. “I think she had some great ideas.”
Edmonston was elected to the Town Council for a first time this May with 322 votes—the second most behind Councilman Chris Hornbaker, who got 368.
The tension came to the forefront at the Sept. 6 Town Council meeting. As Edmonston was reading a lengthy motion that proposed creating a standing Finance Committee, Dunlap interjected and said that he was confused about the motion’s structure. When Edmonston was done reading, Dunlap said he felt that the motion didn’t follow a typical format and asked whether motions should be instructive or informative.
Vice Mayor Jim McIntyre said that Edmonston’s motion was “an extremely awkward structure” and that resolutions typically state the current situation and what the Town Council intends to resolve.
Edmonston justified her motion by saying that other motions she’s read in the past have been shut down because they weren’t informative enough. “I’m trying to be very clear in my resolutions,” she said.
Following a few minutes of discussion among Edmonston, Dunlap and Fontaine, Councilman Chris Hornbaker spoke in Edmonston’s defense.
“From a parliamentary perspective, someone who has the floor can read a book if they wanted to for five minutes,” he said. “This is the first time … where something that’s on topic of existing committees … has been questioned on this dais and I don’t understand why—this is unprecedented.”
Dunlap said this week that the Town Council “has been, is and will continue to be the place of robust debate.”
“The entirety of the information provided by [Edmonston] failed in any way to justify the claims made about those who serve on the council and its processes,” he said. “[Edmonston] didn’t want to follow the process, and that’s what we were debating.”
When asked if she would remain involved in the town’s government, Edmonston said that she would be interested in serving on the Finance Committee if it’s approved, but is not interested in any position that would require running for office. “I have had enough of that to last a lifetime,” she said.
Fontaine said that the Town Council would be revamping its Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct in the coming months and looking to fill two vacancies on the council that were left by Edmonston and Mike Senate, who also resigned for personal reasons last week.
Fontaine said the town has already received applications from a handful of residents. “I’m hopeful that the council can move forward,” he said.