Commissioner wants ‘a more open-minded committee’ to study limited-voting

Published 9:47 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Appointments to a committee that will study the possibility of changing the way county commissioners are elected were delayed Monday after a county leader pushing for a change said he was dissatisfied with the names that were presented.
Saying he was seeking “a more open-minded committee,” Beaufort County Commissioner Gary Brinn asked that appointments to the committee be delayed.
In December, Brinn was appointed chairman of the committee by board Chairman Jerry Langley, who also appointed Commissioners Ed Booth and Stan Deatherage to the committee.
Brinn had proposed Greg Dority of Washington and Ed Hamrick to serve on the committee. Booth had proposed Wayland Whitley and Anthony Northern. Deatherage suggested Charles Hickman and Delma Blinson.
In an interview, Commissioner Robert Belcher expressed concern that no women had been recommended for appointment to the committee and also noted that the county’s younger residents were not represented among those recommended for appointment.
Once the committee is appointed, this will be the third time county leaders have studied limited voting since 2000.
Reports were compiled in 2003 and 2007 on the system of electing members of the county board, the commissioners were told, but no actions to change the election system followed the reports.
Langley told committee members to first “take a look at the work that has been done” to determine if another study needs to be made.
The committee was appointed at the request of Brinn, who recommended that it be given six months to make its recommendations and report monthly to the commissioners on its progress.
Some commissioners said privately that while there was support for the creation of a committee among board members, there may not be enough support among board members to move forward with a change in the method used to board members.
Beaufort County voters have used so-called “limited voting” to elect commissioners about 20 years following a 1991 court order from a federal judge enforcing an agreement between county
leaders and a group of black
residents over changes to the system of electing county commissioners.
Under the old election system, the county board comprised five commissioners wit each elected at-large by voters countywide.
But a lawsuit challenged the method of election, saying that it denied blacks representation on the board in violation of the
federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The election in November of Brinn and Robert Belcher and re-election of Langley and Hood Richardson created a board of county leaders comprised exclusively of Washington residents or those who live in the Washington area.
That has led to growing dissatisfaction among voters who live in Aurora, Bath, Belhaven, Chocowinity and other parts of the county who believe their vote doesn’t count, Brinn and others have said.
All commissioners attended the meeting.

Board handles other matters

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners acted on several items during its meeting Monday. In other action, the board:
• Voted unanimously to approve a five-year lease with the Town of Aurora to operate a solid-waste collection site on town-owned property at the rate of $7,200 per year.
• Voted unanimously to tentatively approve the sale of county-owned property at 2740 Woodstock Road, Belhaven, for $1,200 and county-owned property at 230 Pantego St., Belhaven, for $20,000, subject to the county receiving a higher bid for that property.
• Voted unanimously to authorize the Beaufort County Health Department to apply for a grant from Vidant Beaufort Hospital to educate 650 students in two elementary schools on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s My Plate guidelines.
• Voted 5-2 to approve $2,821.50 in travel expenses, with Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson casting dissenting votes. The board took no action on a travel request from Beaufort County Sheriff Alan Jordan to attend a meeting sponsored by the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association.
Made the following appointments: Catherine Glover, James Gaynor and Barbara Tansey, terms to expire in 2015, and Daniel Bergevin and Larry Morgan, terms to expire in 2014, to the Beaufort County Economic Development Advisory Board; Starlon Credle to the Bath Township Planning Board; Commissioner Robert Belcher to the Beaufort County Board of Health; Alice Langley to the Mid-East Commission Board; Commissioners Jerry Langley and Hood Richardson to the Beaufort County Public Safety Committee; Yvonne Evans DeRuiz and Bill Rianhard to the Beaufort County Tourism Authority Feasibility Study Committee.
• Tabled action on a request from Bobby Wayne Daw and Phyllis Thorne Daw to buy property near the new boat ramp at Crisp Landing Road to place a driveway on county-owned property that would provide access to their home.