The Board of Elections has been the hot topic as of late and the Board of Commissioners recently jumped into the fray only to jump right back out.
In an unusual move, the Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 to move the meeting location of the Board of Elections so it could be broadcast on Chanel 23 and then unanimously rescinded that vote at their evening work session Tuesday.
Elections board Chairman and democratic appointee Garvin Haynes, who was added to the work session agenda, described some issues discussed at the election board’s contentious five hour meeting held earlier that day and requested the BOC move the elections board meeting location from 1400 Parker Road to 901 Main Street.
He said he suggested broadcasting the meetings for Channel 23, “because of the concern of what was going on, given that the meeting was being (audio) taped, for total transparency and so that the citizens can truly know what’s going on.”
“I think it is necessary for citizens to see that the other two members wish to pass these bylaws as they are to the detriment of the citizens of this county,” said Haynes.
“I am suspect that the more sunshine we put on this process, the less likely that will happen.”
Haynes said the other two members of the elections board, republican appointee Lynn Brown and third member Cary Bond, who were not present at the BOC work session, were against moving the meeting location. They had reportedly cited the additional county expense for public relations personnel and concerns that the meeting would be edited and censored if it were broadcast on Channel 23.
Haynes said if the elections board met Mondays at 9 a.m., public relations personnel were already at work and their offices were at 901 Main Street.
Public relations director Erica Fatima said official meetings were aired in their entirety and not edited; however, unofficial events, such as last fall’s Town Hall meeting on violence and crime, was shorted for length.
Commissioner JaNice Van Ness pointed out that the next elections board meeting was a month away and there was no need for a rushed vote. She suggested having the discussion during that night but voting on the issue a week later at the BOC voting session.
“Out of respect for the (election) board members, who are all volunteer board members, I think it would be courteous for us to take the time to listen to what their reasoning was,” said VanNess. “There’s no reason, since the meeting is a month away, that we make a hasty decision.”
Chairman and county CEO Richard Oden said moving the location would be “just a logistics move. It doesn’t change the format.”
“I’m about transparency... I would like to hear from the other two as well,” said Oden, but added that was no reason not to take a vote that day.
Nesbitt said, “I’m certainly in favor of airing and broadcasting so the entire county will see all the meeting proceedings so there is nothing left to guess and wonder. Anyone that is upset or angry about that idea is not thinking in the best interests of all the citizens of Rockdale County.”
The location change was approved 2-1, with VanNess voting against.
The abruptness of the vote left county Clerk Jennifer Rutledge at a loss for words. “I believe as parliamentary procedure, you can take a vote. I don’t really know what else to say,” she said.
However, at the end of the meeting VanNess requested to rescind the vote and put it on the agenda for the March 8 voting session. She pointed out the contradiction in the topic of the vote and the method of the vote.
“In all fairness, what you’ve said in one breath is we want transparency but you’ve just broken what you’ve said tonight,” she said.
Nesbitt replied, “In the word of using fairness, you’re absolutely right.
I do second that motion that we wait until we hear from all parties involved. The last thing I want to do is send out the wrong message. I want to make sure the right thing is done all across the board from one end of the county to the next.”
The vote was rescinded unanimously.
The next BOC voting meeting is normally held the second Tuesday of the month, 10 a.m. at 901 Main Street.
(Feb. 2, 4:41 a.m.) IN BRIEF: In an unusual move at the Board of Commissioners work session on Monday evening, the BOC voted 2-1 to move the location of election board meetings to 901 Main Street to allow the meetings to be taped and aired on Channel 23, at the recommendation of Board of Elections chairman and local Democratic appointee Garvin Haynes, and then rescinded the vote.
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