COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Two Boone County commissioners rebuked their fellow official on Thursday over comments he made about the county's health department director.
A letter from Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill and District 2 Commissioner Janet Thompson to Columbia city manager John Glascock criticized District 1 Commissioner Fred Parry's reaction to the ownership change at the Holiday Inn Executive Center. In the post, Parry questioned the health department's order limiting business operation and gathering limits due to COVID-19, and criticized department leaders for not meeting with the center's former owner, Ed Baker.
Atwill and Thompson called Parry's post "largely inaccurate," and said they appreciated health director Stephanie Browning's work on trying to slow the spread of the virus.
"We regret the actions of Mr. Parry and write to specifically disavow them," the letter said.
Ed and Kathy Baker revealed Tuesday that they had turned over ownership of the hotel and conference center on Bernadette Drive to a bank and planned to leave town. A Facebook post from Kathy Baker blamed local COVID-19 restrictions and numerous event cancelations for the business' struggles. Driftwood Hospitality Management will take over operation of the hotel.
Atwill and Thompson gave their support to Browning's work.
"From the outset of this public health pandemic, Director Browning has done extraordinary work, walking the tightrope of keeping our population as safe and well as possible, given the virulence of this virus, and keeping our economy up and running," the letter said. "Instead of attacking Director Browning and her staff, we should thank them for caring so much for our community that they square their shoulders and raise their chins when they are vilified in the town square."
Parry told ABC 17 News that he felt bad for the Bakers losing their business.
"I think some of my colleagues should think about the families who build our community’s businesses and not just tabulate the money they bring into government," Parry said. "Ed and Kathy Baker deserve a recognition banquet for their years of volunteerism and service. But for them, the ballroom closed. And that’s sad. I stand with our family-owned businesses and I’m proud of it."
Glascock sent out his own reaction to Parry and Baker's post on Wednesday. He said the city met with the Holiday Inn 11 times since the pandemic began.
The two Democratic commissioners again brought up their Republican colleague's presence at a May meeting at the Executive Center with several local businesses discussing the COVID-19 health order. The letter said Parry helped orchestrate a lawsuit one of those business owners would file against the health department, which the county had to defend against.
Parry has denied any knowledge or involvement in the lawsuit.