City Councilman Bernie Herpin, who is running for re-election in April, said he “meant no disrespect” when he suggested that a citizen stop going to City Hall to address the City Council.
During Tuesday’s formal council meeting, Herpin was recorded on a live mic saying, “When are we going to tell her to stop coming here?”
He made the remark when Elizabeth Reed was called up to speak during citizen discussion.
Reed has been going to City Hall for months and speaking during the citizen discussion portion of formal council meetings, raising concerns about smoking in low-income housing for seniors.
“What I was referring to was there is nothing we can do to help her. Just as she berated the mayor yesterday, we have no control over the Housing Authority. The mayor appoints the housing board, not council. Our council staff and some individual council members have done what we can, which is only asking the Housing Authority to help. It is entirely in their hands,” Herpin said in an email.
“I meant no disrespect and have been one of the most accessible and responsive council members to citizens throughout the city, not just in my district.”
In a telephone interview Wednesday evening, Herpin said he gets frustrated when he can’t help people solve their issues and they keep coming “back and back and back.”
“There was no disrespect intended. Please make note of that,” he said. “It’s frustrating to us when we cannot help people.”
But Herpin said the publicity around his slip-up could help Reed.
“Maybe the media can apply pressure that we can’t,” he said.
“I regret that my mic was on,” Herpin added.
Do you regret that your mic was on or that you made the remark, Councilman Herpin?
“Both, really,” he said. “But not for the reasons you might think. It’s more out frustration of not being able to help somebody. When they come to council, we want to help.”