Sequence 01 1Audio recording of BOC discussion of the elections board at the March 8 BOC meeting
Sequence 01Audio recording of public comments at the March 8 BOC meeting
(March 11, 10:48 p.m.) The elections board was once again the hot topic at the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday as elections board members spoke before the BOC Tuesday about proposed bylaws changes and the BOC's attempt last week to move the meeting location of the elections board.
(March 8, 6: 58 p.m.) IN BRIEF: The elections board was once again the hot topic at the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning as elections board members Lynn Brown and Garvin Haynes spoke before the BOC today about proposed bylaws changes and a BOC attempt last week to move the meeting location of the elections board. Attending Commissioners JaNice Van Ness and Oz Nesbitt did vote at this meeting on any location changes for the elections board.
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The BOC had voted 2-1, with Commissioner Van Ness opposing, to move the elections board meetings to 901 Main Street, then rescinded that vote.
At Tuesday's meeting, elections board member and Republican appointee Lynn Brown said she and third member Cary Bond, who was not present, were in favor of having some meetings, especially when the elections board takes up the topic of redistricting, at 901 Main Street so they could be taped for Channel 23. She expressed concern about the expense on county employees.
She brought up an offer from private residents to tape the meetings at 1400 Parker Road and take the recordings to the county’s public relations department.
Commissioner Oz Nesbitt responded, "We can’t leave that in the hands of citizens to do their own tape recording… Here any employee found mishandling or tampering will be held accountable. When a citizen takes their own tape recorder and goes out to the scene of a crime or accident, they can manipulate that tape." He said community relations Director Erica Fatima had reassured the board that official public meetings were not cut short or edited.
Van Ness expressed concern that the elections board was not being consulted. "When we have a committee, something needs to be decided by that committee and not us as a Board. I would like to refer back to the Board of Elections for a review and recommendations," she said.
Brown said Elections Board member and Democratic appointee Garvin Haynes, as current elections board chairman, had denied the elections board its due process by refusing to call motions to a vote.
Haynes also spoke and said the changes to the bylaws that were proposed by Brown and Bond would fundamentally change the ability of either the Republican or Democratically appointed member to veto a choice for the third elections board member. The changes proposed would also potentially allow the third member to serve for life, said Haynes.
He said he proposed airing the meetings on Channel 23 because "If that were aired, the public would be in an uproar."
Nesbitt also pointed out the importance of ironing out the workings of the elections board before redistricting and the campaign season are underway so residents could trust the board’s rulings.
"I think it’s important we not kid ourselves about why this conversation is at hand," Nesbitt said. "As Rockdale continues to change, as the demographics continue to change, so will how we do government and how we do new policies, practices, procedures.
"What we did in 1972, we can’t do in 2011. Things have changed. The face of the community has changed. We have to make sure we embrace everybody."
Van Ness responded "I find it offensive that you say demographics is at the root of this problem," and pointed out that all three elections board members were white.
Nesbitt said the term "demographics" did not just mean race but also referred to age, gender, and socioeconomic background.
Van Ness requested a cost analysis of what it would take to hold the elections board meetings at 901 Main Street or to tape the meetings at 1400 Parker Road.
BOC Chairman Richard Oden was not present at the meeting.