'Chair' Carpenter needs a lesson from 'The Wire' on how to run a meeting

Uneasy lies the head that wears the Chair.

Thanks to Alaska Landmine blogger Jeff Landfield for pointing out a bizarre exchange in which Kenai Rep. Ben “Chair” Carpenter took umbrage at Anchorage Rep. Matt Claman for a run-of-the-mill statement in an informational meeting last week on law and order. There are no House committees yet, so as an Acting Chair, Carpenter had as much political power as the chair he mistook for a throne.

This reminded me of a scene in “The Wire” where Stringer Bell named himself Chair and tried to conduct a meeting of his drug dealers according to the dictates of Robert’s Rules of Order. In enforcing protocol, his sergeant-at-arms had to gently remind more than one gangster, “Yo, Chair didn’t recognize your ass man.”

There was one embarrassing moment in which Chair had to be corrected by the man with the rulebook, after one gangster complained. ”Yo String, Poot did have the floor,” but Chair didn’t want to hear it.

Anyway, in Chair Carpenter’s case, Claman had the floor and was making this non-confrontational statement to Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom when decorum broke down: “I’m a little concerned when the commissioner hasn’t seen a budget nine days before the budget is gonna get released. I would just say there’s like four or five departments . . .”

Claman was cut off by Chair, who said, “Please be careful to not impugn the guests here.”

“I don’t think anyone’s being impugned,” said Claman.

“Well, I believe you are,” said Chair.

Claman continued with impunity, speaking to Dahlstrom in a polite fashion: “I would strongly recommend that as we go forward that as a department that a lot of us have a lot of interest in exactly how the funds are being spent that you’re the person we’re going to look to to have those details. Frankly I’m . . .”

Chair cut off Claman again: “I’m sure once the budget is out we will have that discussion. I am sure.”

“I’ll finish my question and comment and then I’ll let you know when I’m done,” Claman replied curtly.

“Excuse me,” said Chair, “I think I am the Chair and you are done.”

“No I don’t think there is a Chair of this committee,” said Claman.

“I am a Chair of this committee and you are done,” said Chair. “You are done.”

Claman, who wasn’t done, tried to ask another question of Dahlstrom, but Chair would not have it. “You are done.”

To prevent further damage to Chair’s standing, Rep. Tammie Wilson asked him to pause the proceedings, which Chair did. It resumed with Claman asking his question and Dahlstrom answering. It was done.

Dermot Cole7 Comments