The new Board of Commissioners met this evening for a special meeting to address the listed issues. Town Manager Melissa Adams began by reading an existing policy to the Board. She covered basic protocols which the staff and Board have followed for decades…until the last board was elected…
- The Town manager will provide the board with any and all information they need. They’re NOT supposed to, or allowed to, contact the staff on their own. If they have questions or concerns, they should send them to Adams who will address it with the appropriate staff member.
- The board members are NOT allowed to task the staff…under any circumstance. Again, if they want or need something, they communicate with Adams who will communicate it to the staff. If appropriate.
- No board member is supposed to influence the staff or department heads in dealing with the staff. If a board member feels strongly about a situation, and technically the board isn’t even supposed to be privy to employee issues, they can address it in a legally called closed session and the entire board can vote on whether to take some kind of action.
- Town attorney Dan Hartzog is not considered staff and reports directly to the board.
- The board and the staff are supposed to represent the town in the best possible way, at all times. Issues among the board should be discussed in open session, diplomatically and not in an openly antagonistic manner. The board should never discuss the staff in a negative way and again, if they have to discuss employee issues it should be in a closed session.
- Members of the board are NOT allowed to contact municipal vendors. All questions/concerns will be directed to Melissa Adams who will contact the support agencies herself.
Adams followed up by saying it was inappropriate for the board to direct any questions to the staff during open meetings. All questions should be directed to her. She will decide whether the staff member should answer it immediately or if they will investigate the issue and send a response later.
Adams said she was ‘ok’ with the board members addressing the staff on minor issues. But Commissioner Marley addressed her comment to say minor issues can turn into bigger issues and her office and position deserved the respect the policy dictates. The board agreed.
Marley also addressed the length of both the agendas and the meetings. The board discussed ways to streamline both, by removing redundant issues and by moving appropriate items from New Business to the Consent Agenda.
The board also agreed Melissa Adams will no longer read her Manager’s Report during the early part of each meeting. Moving forward, it will be included in the agenda under Reports & Information, as it was before.
A great deal of time was spent debating the Board’s rules of procedure. The initial plan was to read each proposed change and then vote to make all of the changes at the end. However, Commissioner Bellflowers brought along his copy of Trey Allen’s rules of procedure and objected to the proposed changes to two rules.
The conversation went in circles for a very long time. Dan Hartzog actually impressed me when he reminded the board Trey Allen’s book was ‘suggested’ procedure and not required. The board is free to modify it within reason. Then he referenced a blog post by Freyda Bluestein with the North Carolina School of Government which clarified the board of commissioners CAN vote to give the mayor additional powers. Traditionally the mayor has been free to make nominations and create ad hoc committees. That ability was stripped away by former Commissioners Larson and Mitchell.
Ultimately the board decided to address each issue individually.
On the topic of transacting other business not specifically mentioned on an agenda for a special meeting, the board voted 5/0 to disallow this practice.
Reversing an earlier decision, the board voted 5/0 to require a second to any motion made.
The Mayor may make nominations and create temporary committees but may only vote in the case of a tie. 5/0
And the ruled which disallowed married couples, or family members residing in the same house from serving on a committee was abolished, 5/0.
The new rules of procedure will be updated and that version will be included in a future consent agenda and put into practice.
Regarding Ordinance 2018-09, which required the entire board be present to hear any proposal regarding the sell or long-term lease of municipal land, the board voted 4/1 to repeal it. Bellflowers voted against the repeal.
They also discussed the importance of establishing a steady presence at the monthly Chamber luncheons and agreed the board members should make a concerted effort to attend, and Melissa Adams, Drew Holland and Chancer MacLaughlin will continue to attend.
Finally, they discussed inviting members of the local press to meet with the board so they could all become familiar with one another, but specifically so members of the press can know who they should contact when they have questions. A potential date was set but hasn’t been confirmed yet.
There was a short closed session to discuss personnel issues and then the meeting was over.
It took them roughly two hours to undo every bad decision made my former Commissioners Larson and Mitchell.
No one argued, no one yelled. No one was accused of breaking thirty laws and no one played the helpless victim. It was all very civilized. And despite the detractors, who weren’t at the meeting but managed to post a very inaccurate portrayal of it less than 30 minutes after it ended…the board did discuss every issue. Nothing was rubber stamped and it wasn’t a slam dunk. They simply focused on the issues and worked together as a team.
Special THANKS to Earl Vaughan Sr. who gave a lovely invocation, and Earl Vaughan Jr. from Up & Coming Weekly who attended last night’s meeting.