Unite Norman
Members of the group Unite Norman stood in favor of electing Sean Boyd as an interim council member in place of David Perry. The group loudly protested the outcome of the vote against Boyd, calling council members tyrants and gutless. (Gaylord News)

Citizens rallied Tuesday in the lobby of the Norman Municipal Court in support of replacement City Council member nominee Sean Boyd. But events quickly escalated during the meeting when council members unexpectedly began opposing his nomination, which was made by an independent committee. 

Boyd’s appointment by the council was being considered after the death of council member David Perry of Ward 2, who died of a heart attack two months after his election. He was 60.

Gaylord NewsThis story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

Ward 6 Councilwoman Elizabeth Foreman and Ward 1 Councilwoman Kate Bierman set the tone when they indicated their opposition to Boyd, who would have served the remainder of Perry’s term.

“I don’t feel the committee put the best applicant forward,” Foreman said. 

Bierman said she had “fundamental concerns on how the committee made their decision.” 

Despite the group of Boyd supporters in attendance, Mayor Breea Clark declined to allow comment from the public during the council’s discussion, which drew heated criticism from members of Unite Norman, a group that led an effort to recall council members and Clark. Ward 3 Councilwoman Alison Petrone will face a recall election as a result, but the group failed in its effort to collect enough valid signatures for a recall election of Clark.

“Our mission was to bring our city closer to center and try to remove radical council members — radical council members from our leadership,” co-founder of Unite Norman Russell Smith said. “We respect anyone who is Democrat or Republican (…) Unite Norman’s purpose is to rid the radicals so we can unite the city again.” 

Ultimately, Boyd’s nomination was rejected by a 6-2 vote, with only Clark and Ward 8 Councilman Matthew Peacock voting in his favor.

Unite Norman: ‘They want radicalists’

The Unite Norman group disrupted Tuesday’s meeting in a loud display of favoritism for Boyd. When Boyd received the chance to speak on his behalf, supporters shouted “respect the process!” referring to the council-appointed ward selection committee that considered applications before making the recommendation of Boyd in a 3-2 vote. Two members of that committee subsequently withdrew their support of Boyd before the council meeting.

Boyd apologized to Perry’s family and asked the council for the opportunity to serve the Norman community, thanking them for their service. 

Regardless, Lee Hall, councilmember for Ward 4, said she was already disturbed at the lack of consensus from the committee regarding Boyd. 

“Clearly we need to do a better job of standardizing the process and communicating expectations and having written guidelines put up and all future committees are operating on the same set of expectations and guidelines,” Hall said. 

After Boyd was not voted onto the council Tuesday, Unite Norman members began yelling obscenities, calling the councilmembers cowards, gutless and tyrants. 

“This is a city council that doesn’t use any rules,” Smith said. “They created the rules, and then when it didn’t go their way, when the selection committee chose a moderate, they proved that they don’t want moderation, they want radicalists.”