By CHRISSY SMITH
Slidell news bureau
PEARL RIVER – A simple Facebook post by a Pearl River resident has turned into a heated argument between two Pearl River elected officials.
Colleen Seeley, a 23-year-old Pearl River native, made a post on Facebook on February 23 saying that the Pearl River Town Council meeting minutes, which were posted on the town’s Facebook page, had several mistakes.
She said, “Minutes are a legal document. It is very important for every public record to include proper grammar, spelling, unbiased details, and public comments from the designated podium….This is what your tax dollars are being spent on, which includes a raise given to the town clerk???”
The mistakes in the minutes were that a school board member’s name was misspelled and two people who spoke at the meeting were left out.
Her post immediately drew comments from other residents, including one from the Town Clerk Carla O’Brien Benelli that said, “You don’t know the clerk or what she does at her job from day to day. You only know what (Alderwoman Lora) Cutrer tells you and it’s lies. You have no (sic) idea!”
Shortly after, Alderwoman Lora Cutrer and Alderwoman Bridgett Bennett made comments on the post, which quickly escalated, even having Bennett tell Cutrer she is “ridiculous” and “should be ashamed” of herself.
Cutrer’s first post was to apologize for the records not being accurate.
“…What you may not know is that I have been in contact with our Town Clerk today by text and email. I do have faith that the records will be fixed according to our amendments made and voted on by the council. All minutes are public records, of course, and should be maintained with the upmost respect for our public that chooses to come and speak at our meetings. As to why our Town Clerk which is also Clerk of the Alderman (while I’m sure on her given lunch break ) chose to respond so rudely to you, our town resident, I cannot explain. Nor can I explain her calling her Alderman a liar. This is very disheartening and disturbing. Once again I apologize for such behavior being represented by our town/council clerk. You have every right to voice your frustrations about the meeting minutes that were posted onto our official Facebook page,” Cutrer posted.
Several posts later, Bennett responded to Cutrer.
“Lora, you are a fine one to be telling someone about making rude comments about another–especially after all the ugly and distasteful comments you have made on social media naming our town clerk specifically saying where she does or doesn’t live, and what she does or doesn’t do for the town and not to mention the way you treat people in town hall. You are RIDICULOUS and should be ashamed of yourself. I’ve done minutes for over 20 years for medical offices, legal offices, governmental/political offices and ANYONE who knows anything about doing minutes knows that they should be a very condensed and brief form of the highlights of what took place in the meeting. No entity includes everything that was said and or done in a meeting!!!!” Bennett said.
Cutrer responded in length, with one sentence saying, “I am sorry that my post has offended you so, but the fact that our clerk was rude to one of our residents of our town that we serve does not offend you??”
Bennett then went on to respond to another resident who was posting, saying to the woman, “Anyone can obtain a copy of the CD from any meeting to hear for themselves 100% of what was said in the meetings but of course people like you would rather get on social media and comment on something you know absolutely NOTHING about!!!! Have a great day.”
Seeley said she made the original post because she was disappointed to see the mistakes in the minutes even after they had been pointed out.
“I attended the Town Council meeting in January after hearing the citizens’ uproar about things going on at the meeting so I wanted to go to show them (the public) that they should attend themselves to form their own opinions,” Seeley said. “I spoke at the meeting, and there was no record of it on the minutes.”
She said Sierra Holloway also spoke at the meeting and she was not included in the minutes either.
Since Seeley’s February 23 Facebook post, which includes a photo of the current minutes, the minutes have been taken down from the Town of Pearl River Facebook page.
Despite numerous attempts to reach Bennett, she did not comment on the situation. However, Cutrer did.
“Bridgett and I went to school together, but there’s nothing I can ever think of that has happened between us to cause problems. I have reached out many times to find out what the issue is. I don’t want this for our town,” Cutrer said. “When I’m called a liar by the clerk, and I don’t know what I’ve done, I will be asking in writing what I have done to be called a liar.”
Cutrer said she and Bennett have talked at Bennett’s home as well as at the town hall to try and resolve their differences.
“We have been trying to work on this, but we have not been able to settle this. One time, the mayor was there when we were having a very heated discussion and she called me a ‘scumbag’ and the mayor did not say anything,” Cutrer said. “It’s really divided us and I’m so sad over that. I don’t want us to be divided. I love this town. I have no problem with Bridgett or Carla. I do have problems with the unprofessionalism and the bickering on Facebook. We still have two years to pull together as a team. We’ve got to sit down. I really want us to come together.”