Extract from the Tennesse Star
July 2, 2022 By Laura Baigert
GALLATIN, Tennessee – The Gallatin City Councilman who proposed the de-annexation of an individual property owner for complaining about the city defended his proposal, even as he agreed to “put it to bed” at the council’s work session Tuesday.
“I was just trying to do this to help,” claimed Shawn Fennell, councilman at large, to the large crowd in the Dr. Deotha Malone Chambers at Gallatin City Hall.
Fennell proposed de-annexing the property of Pascal Jouvence and Michelle Jouvence from the city of Gallatin at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Council on June 21. Pascal Jouvence requested a petition to run as a candidate for Gallatin City Council in the November non-partisan election earlier that very same day. De-annexing the Jouvences would effectively eliminate Pascal Jouvence from running in the city election, The Tennessee Star reported.
Fennell’s response came after the Jouvences and six members of the community spoke on the matter during the public recognition portion of the council’s work session agenda.
The Jouvences are regular attendees of Gallatin city government meetings and frequently call out issues with how the city is run and decisions by the council.
The week prior and without the topic being listed on the agenda, Fennell aired his grievances about the couple to his fellow council members.
“We all know that over the last three and a half, four years, that these citizens have been upset and they’re always negative towards everything we do up here. That’s all of us. And it’s just that there’s nothing ever nice said about the city of Gallatin or any of us.”
Based on his “personal opinion,” Fennell made a motion to de-annex the Jouvence’s address of 1335 Long Hollow Pike and “put them back into the county.”
Fennell justified his proposal at the time by saying the Jouvences objected to having been annexed into the city, even though the property was annexed prior to their purchase of it.
“Five, seven weeks ago, if you remember we had a citizen that come up here and spoke, upset about being annexed into the city and said they weren’t receiving all the plans of services in the city,” said Fennell.
The Jouvences debunked Fennell’s claims in their comments Tuesday evening.
Michelle Jouvence, who was the first to get up to speak, said she was unusually nervous and began with a prayer during which she expressed gratitude for the city, everyone in the room, the breath given each day and invited the Holy Spirit into the room, praying that the words spoken would be truthful.
After quoting Fennell word for word from the prior meeting, Michelle Jouvence advised about what he said, “That is not true.”
Having reviewed the records going back about two months, Michelle Jouvence said she thought Fennell was referring to the April 5 meeting during which she spoke about annexation issues.
“I was not upset, and I am not unhappy. I love Gallatin, and I don’t like it when you twist my words, and I don’t like it when you say that I am saying something that I’m not saying, because I am very clear when I am speaking, and I put it on the record, and it’s all there. You can go back and watch it, and it’s all there,” she explained.
After repeating what she pointed out at the April 5 meeting about annexation and the state-mandated plan of services, Michelle Jouvence had some questions for the council members.
Michelle Jouvence first asked whose idea it was to de-annex her and Pascal Jouvence and why, after three years of bringing up annexation and plans of services that came to light with regard to The Meadows 1,115-unit housing development, de-annexation all of a sudden came up and only for their property. She went on to question if they think she and Pascal Jouvence will be silenced by being kicked out of the city.
“Just because you don’t like what we say, doesn’t mean we’re unhappy. It means you’re unhappy,” Michelle Jouvence said.
As the acting chair Councilman Craig Hayes indicated her five minutes were up, Michelle Jouvence responded, “I have one more question. This is a big deal, if you’re going to kick me out of the city.”
“So, you all said, ‘Well let’s find out if they want to be de-annexed. We’ll put it on the agenda this week and find out.’ Why didn’t you call us this week and ask us or email us? Like do you really want to know? Like why didn’t you contact us and ask us this? You didn’t,” Michelle Jouvence said, as she concluded with a thank you.
Pascal Jouvence, when he went to the podium, played the actual recording of the comments Michelle Jouvence made at the April 5 meeting that were called into question.
Having consumed the five minutes for public comments, Pascal Jouvence stopped there, except for a final comment.
As demonstrated through the recording, Pascal Jouvence said to Fennell, “That doesn’t sound to me like somebody’s who’s upset and never heard anything about what you said on the record, sir, so it would be nice if you stopped twisting our words.”
Six other citizens spoke on a combination of support for the Jouvences and their reaction to the council’s proposal. It was the brief comments by the first speaker, John Miller, that seemed to make the greatest impression, because he was mentioned several times afterwards.
“How about we just cut to the chase. Everyone here really needs to apologize. The city has now and the city’s gonna have lots and lots and lots of problems. The residents don’t need this kind of fighting and this kind of infighting. Apologize, get it over with and let’s get on with what you’re elected to do, alright, and deal with the issues that the city has to face. I wrote, what I was going to say was, ‘Pull up your big boy pants and get to work on what you’re supposed to be doing,’” said Miller to applause and cheering of consensus from attendees.
With mayor’s comments being the next item on the agenda, Paige Brown addressed several issues including the passing of lifelong resident and dedicated volunteer Homer Bradley.
Regarding the de-annexation proposal on June 21, Brown said she was caught off guard and that she didn’t think it was the right thing to do.
With the de-annexation discussion moved up unanimously from number 7 on the agenda, Fennell was the first to speak.
“I do agree with what Mr. Miller had to say pretty much, but one thing I’d like to say is I was just trying to do this to help,” Fennell said.
By the laughter that ensued, Fennell’s explanation obviously fell flat with attendees as Fennell went on to express his gripes with the couple and essentially confirmed that the council’s vote was retaliatory for them speaking out against the council.
“You know, go ahead and laugh. I mean, he mentioned one time that she got up there and spoke and I’m not going to pull public records requests over the years, but I think this council with the vote that they made the other evening they understand where I’m coming from, if I’m making it up. I’d say everybody on this council knows that they’ve complained about the annexation issue and the plan of services for years and I was certainly just trying to help. I’m not the first person that brought this out. I’m not the first person that brought this out. It come up three or four weeks ago. It was on the internet, it was on Facebook.”
Brown appeared to cut Fennell off as she suggested she interfere for Fennell’s benefit and that of the council and the city.
“I think that they have certainly indicated that being de-annexed is not something that they’re interested in, and so I think that the proper movement of this body is to put it to bed and take it off the table,” Brown proposed.
Fennell interrupted Brown, “I‘ll be glad to put it to bed. I just really didn’t swallow the part of being a liar.”
“I mean I had a lot of stuff I wanted to say tonight and I chose not to, especially after I heard Mr. Miller. I think it’s the right thing to do. But the audience out here, there’s a lot, not a lot, there’s some things that I would love to say. You know, when it comes on the internet and you’re corrupt and you’re this and you’re that, that’s harmful” Fennell complained with Brown nodding in agreement in the background.
Fennell did apologize for not pulling either of the Jouvences aside to have a conversation about de-annexation before making the proposal during the meeting. “If I had had that to take back, that would be the part.”
Not able to let it rest, Fennell went on to defend the actions at the previous meeting, where the council made the decision to not vote on de-annexation directly but to discuss it at the work session.
“One thing that I would like to say. The vote the other night I think was 5 to 1 and I was gung-ho. I was ready to make that move and I know it could have went a step further. But I did listen to the comments from a couple of people up here, and I thought well the best thing to do is put it back in a work session and let the council talk about it, hear from the citizens.”
“I think there’s probably been stuff on both sides said,” Fennell continued with Brown clearly looking uncomfortable, “and just my theory is I would love to say a lot of stuff about that. But, at this time, I’m not. I see their passion about staying in the city. Maybe now they changed their mind,” Fennell ludicrously posited to more laughter from attendees.
“I don’t think there’s any reason in discussing de-annexation any further. I’d like to do what the mayor said and just put it to bed,” Fennell finally concluded.
Councilman Steve Fann, who seconded Fennell’s motion for the Jouvence’s de-annexation at the June 21 meeting, expressed his support for Fennell.
“I just want to say that I think Mr. Fennell is doing the right thing. He’s doing the best thing for the city. He said there’s things he’d like to say. He’s not going to say it. I think he’s taking the high road. He’s willing to put it to bed and I think that’s what the council should do,” said Fann.
Hayes agreed that it was the right thing to do and expressed appreciation for Mr. Miller coming up and making his comments. Hayes said he didn’t think it’s right to arbitrarily remove someone from city limits, even though the move was clearly not arbitrary. Hayes added that, after last week, everybody had time to take a step back and say they made a mistake.
“So, I think that we are making the right decision now. I think Mr. Fennell,” Hayes said as he gestured toward his fellow council member, “is making the right decision now, saying hey look we need to put this to bed.”
When Hayes asked if anyone else had something to say, Councilman Jimmy Overton responded that he did. Overton, who was quiet on the issue other than his vote June 21, ran as a Republican in the May 3 primary for county commission in the newly established District 9 and lost to first-time candidate Mary Genung by an 18- point margin.
Overton went on for several minutes expressing thankfulness for Fennell and encouraging citizens to do something different with their time.
“I appreciate you Mr. Fennell, I really do. And I appreciate the citizens coming up tonight. I just wish that we could get this kind of passion for our city and not just because of the negative stuff that they’re here tonight for. I wish we could get more citizens to, you know we have so many non-profits here in Gallatin,” Overton said.
“I wish they would donate their time and help make our city a better place instead of us arguing and fussing all the time.”
“You know, we get on social media, and I think every council member up here,” Overton said, as he waved his hand across the council, “loves this city more than you could ever imagine. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t serve it. We wouldn’t be away from our families. We wouldn’t be away from our families for hours at a time none of us. But when you get on social media and things and you get folks that get on there that absolutely try to destroy us, our families, our image, try to get conspiracies of what we’re going to do with no proof whatsoever of it. They just get conspiracies and throw it out on social media. It’s not fun. It’s not fun for our kids to see. It’s not fun for our families to see. And I appreciate you being passionate about our city. We’re all passionate about our city. We love our city, just like you love our city. And I appreciate you coming tonight.”
“Thank you, Mr. Fennell, for doing what you done. Hopefully, this meeting, you’ll understand we’re not the bad guys. We don’t always make the decisions that you’re going to be happy about. We never will. But that’s what this city is all about. That’s why we have such a great city. We don’t always agree with each other on the council. There’s a lot of times that we don’t vote like each other on the council. We didn’t vote the other night alike. Mr. Hayes voted against it the other night. But we all love our city. We all have families. We all care about it,” said Overton with a thank you as he ended his lecture.
The council, after its discussion concluded, voted to let Pascal Jouvence speak again.
Initially, Pascal Jouvence seemed agreeable with Overton and his speech when it comes to people who go on the internet and “throw stuff out with no reason” and that it is not good.
He went on to point out that during the 2020 election cycle when Pascal Jouvence was a candidate for council, “That’s what you guys have done to me for nine months at the last election.”
He went on to explain how he and Michelle Jouvence were first threatened and then a Lieutenant General was used to question Pascal Jouvence’s status as a “veteran,” because he was in the French military, and accused him of stolen valor.
Pascal Jouvence went on to play an audio recording taken from a council meeting before it was called to order in which Fennell and Overton could be heard discussing their strategy for Fennell and Hayes to be re-elected and related to the people making the stolen valor claims.
Hayes seemed bewildered, as he said the council was ready to put it to bed and that they are sorry, but Pascal Jouvence wants to “bring up bad stuff.”
Pascal Jouvence said he felt that the people need to understand what is really going on and that the council revealed who they truly are at the last meeting.
“You opened a Pandora’s box, for sure,” he said.
Brown, trying to reel in the proceedings even though she was not chairing the meeting, said the back and forth was not productive and, rather, was embarrassing.
“I’m saying we need to stop this,” said Brown.
Hayes agreed, as did Pascal Jouvence.
Fennell got in a final word, saying, “I’m fine with stopping it, but I’ll say all of us could go on, too.”
The last word went to Pascal Jouvence as he said, “You tried something. That was the latest attempt to try something. You got caught and that’s what happened,” as he went on to appreciate Hayes and Brown for their apologies as well as Councilwoman Lynda Love who said she was not aware during the previous meeting that Pascal Jouvence had intended to run for office, according to an account by Brown.
With the motion and second made before the more than 50 minutes of discussion, it took a matter of seconds for Hayes to take the vote which had only two vocal ayes, but there was no one opposed.
“That puts it to bed. Number seven’s done,” Hayes said quickly as he gaveled with an apparent sense of relief.