Ryan Bubb had never asked anyone to leave a city council meeting before, not until the man in the tan jacket stood up on Monday night and announced that a bedbug had been crawling on his body.
Ryan Bubb had never asked anyone to leave a city council meeting before, not until the man in the tan jacket stood up on Monday night and announced what had been crawling on his body.
"I was informed just a moment ago that I had a bedbug on my back," the man told the Newark City Council. "They're everywhere."
That itchy revelation came during an already-tense meeting in which residents of the Washington Square Plaza apartments hammered their management company for failing to rid the government-subsidized senior-citizens complex of the tiny pests.
Harvest Management officials blasted back, saying that only five of 118 units were being treated for active infestation and that residents were foiling the efforts by visiting infested apartments and retrieving furniture from the trash.
And then the bug popped up - allegedly - right there in the meeting.
Bubb, the meeting's acting president, banged his gavel.
"Sir, if you have bedbugs present on your body, you're going to need to leave this building, OK?" he said.
"He said he killed it," said the man, gesturing toward someone in the audience.
"If you have any on your body, you need to go, OK?" Bubb said. "There's a lot of people here. We need to be respectful to all the people here this evening, OK?"
"I think you'd be respectful to me, also," the man said. "I pointed it out. But I'll be more than happy to leave."
"Whether it was true or not, I don't know," Bubb said yesterday of the bedbug report. "As the president, you have that authority to hit the gavel if somebody's acting inappropriate."
Anybody can be asked to leave a public meeting - especially disruptive audience members, said Jessica Berg, a professor of bioethics and public-health law at Case Western Reserve University.
But regardless of whether the man qualified as disruptive, or whether he could have been kicked out for presenting a possible health hazard, Berg said she has never encountered such a scenario. "I'm not sure even what framework to think of it under," she said.
Joe Ebel, Licking County health commissioner, said he doesn't believe there's a real protocol on what to do when a person spots a bedbug on someone else in a school, library or government building.
"Normally, the bedbugs aren't attached to somebody," Ebel said. "It might make more sense to put their coat or backpack in a plastic bag rather than excluding the person."
But in Monday night's case, the man's dismissal might have had more to do with the heated argument than with any creepy-crawlies.
At the end of the meeting, Councilwoman Rhonda Loomis vented her frustration over a case of "two groups pounding their heads together over a bedbug."
"Then we find one, which was just amazing, and that incited a slight riot, which is also divisive," she said. "And I disagree with those tactics."