Richardson, Mayo differ on rules assessment

Published 11:29 am Sunday, April 7, 2013

Beaufort County Attorney Billy Mayo concluded the vote by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners — during its retreat in February — to locate the new jail at the Beaufort County Industrial Park followed the board’s procedures.

Mayo presented his findings at the board’s meeting Monday. Commissioner Hood Richardson, who called for the assessment by Mayo and County Manager Randell Woodruff, contends the vote violated those procedures. After the vote was taken at the retreat held at the North Carolina Estuarium, Richardson walked out of the meeting.

“lt (the retreat) was treated as a special meeting. … That particular rule … provides that only those items of business specified in the notice may be transacted at a special meeting, unless all members present or those who are not present have signed a written waiver,” Mayo said. “I believe at the particular meeting all members were present. So, even though it was not on the agenda about locating the jail, it was a retreat and would fall within the special-meeting rule.”

Mayo cited several rules in the board’s procedures that, according to him, permitted the jail issue to be discussed at the retreat and voted upon.

“I can’t find a violation of our rules and procedures on what occurred on that retreat there,” Mayo said.

Richardson took a different view.

“Let me refer you to Rule E on page 205. It says, ‘No item will be considered for purposes of taking action by the Board of Commissioners unless it is in the commissioners hands three days prior to any meeting,’ — That certainly didn’t happen — ‘with the exception of Special Called Meetings, or to take up as an emergency item.’ That was not an emergency item,” he said.

Mayo said the board could act on an item not included on the agenda if all commissioners were present and there was no objection to acting on the item.

“Yep, there were objections,” Richardson said.

“There were objections, strenuous objections,” said Commissioner Stan Deatherage.

Mayo said Richardson was outvoted when it came to acting on the item.

“It says no objections. No objections means no objections,” Richardson said. “If somebody objects to it, then it has to be put on the agenda for at least three days before the meeting in order to be heard.”

Richardson said he had stopped attending retreats and similar meetings because “of precisely what happened at this particular meeting, and you won’t see me at any more meetings because I can put a stop to this mess, because if all the board’s not there, that puts a stop to it.”… I’m tired of this kind of stuff being pulled on me and the rest of this board of commissioners.”

Deatherage said there are overlapping rules in the board’s meetings procedures. He said the board should review the rules and get rid of the overlaps.

“We need to have it more concise so one will know when one group or the other group is operating outside the bounds of these rules,” he said.

“No commissioner should be required to attend a meeting where he can be surprised by the agenda.  That’s the whole purpose of these rules,” Richardson said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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