Resident briefly removed from council meeting in Burrillville following heated exchange during comment

Mary Ryan is escorted from the meeting by Col. Stephen Lynch.

BURRILLVILLE – A resident speaking during public comment was ordered to leave a Burrillville Town Council meeting this week and escorted from the building by the chief of police following a heated exchange with the board’s president.

Mary Ryan spoke before the council at their meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 28 about a proposal discussed at a previous meeting to establish limits on public comment.

“I oppose – and I know you’ve talked about it, you’ve put it on the agenda very vaguely – about limiting the time on public comment based on, if I understand it, Mr. Houle’s concerns about decorum,” said Ryan. “Very few people show up at meetings. I was very concerned about that, that that was even an item. I posted something publicly on Facebook. I am the infamous…”

Town Council President Donald Fox cut in.

“Ms. Ryan, I’m going to stop you right now, we’re not going to review the Facebook…,” Fox began.

“Excuse me,” Ryan responded.

“No, you excuse me,” said Fox, pointing a finger toward Ryan. “You excuse me Mrs. Ryan. We are not going to sit here and have you go over your Facebook post at this meeting.”

“Why not, Mr. Fox?” asked Ryan.

“You are not,” replied Fox. “You will be asked to leave.”

Ryan objected noting she was speaking during public comment.

“You’ve got one more minute,” said Fox. “Any further outbursts, you will be asked to leave.”

“I was not outbursting, sir,” replied Ryan. “You are the one who is outbursting.”

“If you have something else to say, be succinct and to the point,” said Fox. “Rambling diatribes are no longer going to be tolerated from you. Get to the point. It’s noted. You’re opposed to it. Fine, move on.”

“I posted a very sincere concern,” Ryan continued briefly before returning to discussion of her post. “Mr. Houle – it appears that you saw it.”

“What I received was a very, very bold statement from a town council member. I’m not going to say who,” Ryan said, adding in a lower voice, “president.”

“I’ve already warned you we’re not repeating and going through your Facebook post,” said Fox.

The exchange continued with both speaking simultaneously and Ryan can be heard saying, “”I have a right to be here.”

“I’m calling for a recess,” said Fox. “We have the chief of police here. I’m done with you. You’re not going to monopolize and waste this council’s time any longer. Chief, we’re done with her.”

The confrontation continued for another minute while Burrillville Police Chief Col. Stephen Lynch waited beside Ryan.

“This is my first amendment right,” said Ryan, before leaving. “You are subjecting the town of Burrillville to litigation. If you guys participate in it, good luck,” she added to the other board members.

“We’ll see you at the next meeting,” said Fox. “Hopefully you’ll be more succinct and more to the point.”

Ryan later returns to the meeting and is invited by Fox up to speak during discussion of the audit.

Video of the exchange can be seen at the start of the meeting found here.

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  1. Well, well, well. It’s happening in little old Burriville too. City council trying to limit the rights of their constituents.

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