MANATEE — County Commissioner Joe McClash’s prolific writing has cost him the use of county letterheads.
Commissioners amended a county policy Tuesday to limit the use of official county letterheads to the chairman and vice-chairman, of which McClash is neither. Instead, he and other commissioners not occupying those posts will have to use individual letterheads.
Not surprisingly, the vote to approve the letterhead limitation was 6-1 — with McClash the lone dissenter.
The change was the latest reaction to letters that McClash sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this month, asking it to hold a public hearing on a beach-restoration and erosion-control project on Longboat Key.
McClash wrote that he was speaking “as an individual commissioner” but used county stationery and signed it as a “countywide commissioner,” a reference to his status as an at-large member.
Other commissioners, who at past meetings have criticized other letters and op-ed pieces that McClash has written, said that made it appear he was writing on behalf of the entire board when he was not. They also removed McClash from his seat on the West Coast Inland Navigation District’s board at the Oct. 6 meeting, which he called “retaliation.”
Other commissioners denied it was retaliatory.
Still, McClash said he “had no problem” with individual commissioners getting their own letterheads. But he voted against the change, saying he believed the board would be exceeding its authority by limiting what letterheads commissioners can use.
He also noted the change was in the form of a resolution, which can’t be enforced, and that previous commissions have been able to resolve their disagreements without restricting free speech.
“We were able to duke it out but do it in a professional way,” said McClash, the board’s longest-serving member.
Other commissioners said McClash hasn’t done that, thus requiring the letterhead limitations.
“Once the body has decided what the decision will be, an individual has the right to express a dissenting opinion — as long as it is clearly expressed as an individual opinion,” Commissioner Larry Bustle said.
Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.