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Smolik swearing

Mitchell County Board of Supervisors Chair, Stan Walk, (left), administers the oath of office to recently elected District 3 Supervisor, Steve Smolik (right).

OSAGE | The reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance before or during the meetings of the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors has been a topic of discussion for several weeks, leading to a dispute which disrupted the Jan. 8 supervisors’ meeting.

The idea was first posed during the Friday, Dec. 28, 2018 meeting, when Vietnam veteran and Osage community member Charlie Pajer asked, during the public comments portion of the meeting, why they (the board of supervisors) did not say the Pledge before meetings.

Mitchell County Supervisor Stan Walk said he had an issue with saying the last line of the pledge: “...and justice for all.”

Walk said he did not believe it (“justice for all”) was the practice of the country any longer.

Prior to the Wednesday, Jan. 2, meeting, members of the audience stood and recited the pledge. Later, during open discussion, former supervisor candidate Al Winters asked about being able to stand and say the pledge at the beginning of the meeting.

At that time, Winters was told it would be brought up for discussion at the next meeting. However, it was not on the agenda for the Wednesday, Jan. 8 meeting.

Prior to Jan. 8 meeting, those in attendance replied to a request by audience member Russ Brandau to stand and recite the Pledge, with audience members complying.

When Brandau asked people to stand, Walk told him they (the supervisors) were “not doing that now and they (audience members) were not in charge of the meeting.”

Supervisor and Board Chairman Steve Smolik said the meeting had not started.

The Pledge was recited with Walk leaving the room.

Following the Pledge, Mitchell Country Attorney Mark Walk said to Smolik, “That was very unprofessional.

“I don’t know what games you are trying to play, but you are going to rip this board and county apart. If that’s what you want your legacy to be, then fine, but it was unprofessional and you should have brought it before the board and had a vote on it.”

Smolik informed Mark Walk he had nothing to do with the standing and reciting of the Pledge and was unaware it was going to happen.

At that point, Brandau said, “Freedom isn’t a game. I was just exercising my First Amendment right.”

“You don’t think the pledge of Allegiance is controversial?” said Mark Walk.

Winters then said, “If the Pledge is controversial then we have a lot more problems.”

During his portion of the meeting, Mark Walk went on to explain he was not against reciting the Pledge, but believed people were trying to sneak it in, rather than going through the proper process of putting it on the agenda and holding a vote.

“That’s what I was so upset about,” Mark Walk said. “That they tried to sneak it in. The pledge is fine, the anthem is fine, but no one can be forced to say it and there can be no repercussions for not saying it.

“Voters can hold it against you if they choose. We know how it’s turned out for Colin Kappernick. Ten to 15 years ago, the board could disagree with each other and walk out of meetings and not play games or badmouth each other."

During a brief recess, Stan Walk, the supervisor, said there were individuals in attendance who had been trying to undermine the supervisors and trying to run the meetings and the board.

“Well, I do have a problem with it,” he said, “because of how it ends. I really have a problem standing there and saying it, when anymore in this country, it is justice for the rich, not justice for all. I’m not unpatriotic, but things need to change in this country. Someone needs to stand up for the little guy.”

During public comments, when asked why discussion of the Pledge hadn’t been added to the agenda, Smolik, said, “I wanted to hear County Attorney Walk’s comments on the Pledge before putting it on the agenda.”

The issue will be discussed at the Tuesday, Jan. 15 meeting of the board of supervisors.

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