Commissioner apologizes after breaking debate rule

PADUCAH — “I’m sorry that I made a mistake, and I hope that my fellow candidates can forgive me, and I hope that people can offer me grace,” Paducah City Commissioner Sarah Stewart Holland said. That apology comes after the discovery that she broke a rule during a debate with fellow commission candidates Thursday night.

Yvonne Gray, the chairwoman of the committee for that debate — called the Great Debate of Paducah — said it was brought to her attention that Holland broke one of the rules. No prepared notes were allowed. Gray said the questions were given to the candidates ahead of time for their review.

Holland said if she could go back and do it over, she would have paid closer attention to these rules.

“Extremely sad,” Gray said. “Because I know all of the candidates. I consider them all friends, and I was just hoping they would read the rules and make sure they followed the rules. And all of them did, except for one.”

Gray said she confirmed with multiple candidates and audience members that Holland had a set of prepared notes with her as she spoke during the debate.

Holland said it was an honest mistake.

“I was out of town, rushing back to town, very busy, trying to get all of my remarks prepared, and I did not review the rules beforehand. And so, I just didn’t know. It wasn’t me trying to deliberately break the rules. I just wasn’t aware,” Holland said.

Commission candidate Scott Jackson sat to Holland’s left when he noticed the notes she brought.

“Candidates knew that we weren’t supposed to have notes, but again my job wasn’t to police the debate. And I certainly extend grace to her. There’s no harm done, no foul,” Jackson said.

Holland said it’s a learning experience like many she and others have been through during her time on the commission.

“Did I make a mistake by taking my notes up there? Yeah. Will I make, have I made mistakes as a commissioner, and will I continue to make mistakes? Yeah, because we’re human beings. We’re human beings, and of course we’re going to screw things up from time to time. But I would hope that everyone could give some grace, because that’s what everybody wants in these situations when they make a mistake is grace,” Holland said.

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