At Monday’s Hall Board of Commissioners work session, Commissioner Craig Lutz proposed stripping the chairman of his ability to deliberate and make and second motions.
Lutz introduced the measure to change the county code, along with a motion to readopt Robert’s Rules of Order, the guidelines by which the commission runs its meetings.
“That would call for the county attorney to be the parliamentarian for our organization,” Lutz argued. “It would delete the chairman’s ability to make motions, seconds and deliberate.”
Chairman Tom Oliver was prepared for the attack and called on an attorney he hired to dispute the board’s ability to remove his powers.
Attorney William Droze presented the commissioners with several arguments against the proposed changes.
“There is some issue of futility that the board should probably be aware of,” Droze said. “Robert’s (Rules of Order) recognizes that in small assemblies, unlike larger assemblies, the chairman typically acts as any other member. So Robert’s itself recognizes that the chairman would have the power to make motions, to vote and to deliberate.”
Droze also pointed out that the chairman is defined by state law as a member of the board.
“The member recognition shows that the chair stands on an equal footing with every other member of the board,” Droze said.
Oliver told the other commissioners that he is paying for Droze’s services with his own money and asked the others not to use the county attorney’s services to settle the different sides’ disagreements.
“I don’t think it’s the taxpayers responsibility to get in the middle of a conflict on the board,” Oliver said.
Commissioner Ashley Bell said the commissioners would not need an attorney unless there was legal action involved and asked Oliver if he plans to sue the board.
“I’m going to do what’s right. If it takes doing what’s right to take this as far is it’s got to go, I will do that,” Oliver said.
The majority of commissioners agreed to bring the issue up for a vote at the commission’s Thursday board meeting.
According to Droze, the position of chairman was created by state law in 1966 and a 1981 resolution clarified the chairman’s ability to make and second motions.
Lutz, who campaigned on reducing the chairman’s power, argued several of Droze’s points.
“There are a lot of different ways of looking at the same issue. Certainly the commissioner and his attorney have an opinion,” Lutz said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s the right opinion, but he’s welcome to challenge it if the commission goes through with changing the ordinance.”
There has been tension on the board since November, when Lutz and Scott Gibbs, who were commissioners-elect, announced they would vote with Commissioner Ashley Bell to move the North Hall library to the town of Clermont when they took office in January. The Board of Commissioners had already approved putting the library on Nopone Road.
Earlier this month, the three voted together to end the contracts of County Attorney Bill Blalock, County Administrator Charley Nix, Assistant County Administrator Phil Sutton and Finance Director Michaela Thompson, without discussing the matter with Oliver and Commissioner Billy Powell.