02/19/09 — Senator's bill would prevent tie-vote concern

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Senator's bill would prevent tie-vote concern

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 19, 2009 1:46 PM

RALEIGH -- State Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin, has introduced a local bill in the Legislature that would stop the Duplin County Commission and Board of Education chairmen from voting unless there is a tie.

Duplin County's board of commissioners and school board both have six members, and the senator had thought of introducing a bill to add a seventh member who would be voted on at-large by all the citizens in the county.

But Albertson said this morning he had been advised that adding the seventh member would interfere with a consent order issued in 1988 when the county's districts were redrawn to assure at least two minority members on each board.

"This bill will not," he said. "I think this will be a positive change. It will change the dynamics of the boards, and they'll be more like we are here (in Raleigh). We don't have any tie votes."

Senate Bill S207, filed Tuesday, will be considered by the Senate. If it passes that chamber, the bill will proceed to the House of Representatives for another vote. If it is approved by both houses, it goes to the governor for her signature.

Albertson said he believes the new law would help the county gain momentum in moving forward. He said he had been told having six members on both boards was impeding progress.

And there have been times when the two boards have come to stalemates because of tie votes.

Board of Education member Jennings Outlaw of Mount Olive said he believes things have some times not come to a vote because the board member who wanted to make a motion knew that issue was going to end up in a tie vote.

"We've had ties all along," he said. "Probably this is the next best thing to adding a seventh at-large member. I feel it's a good idea."

Even electing the 2009 school board chairman was a tie vote, he said. The vote was tied between the chairman from several years previous, Emily Manning of Richlands, and board member Chuck Farrior of Wallace. Farrior declined to vote for himself, and Mrs. Manning became the chairman again by voting for herself.

"I like the idea of having an off number voting so we can get away from a tie," Outlaw said.

County commissioner Frances Parks of Calypso said if the bill does become law, it's going to be hard to have a tie vote -- unless somebody is absent.

And for that reason, she feels bad for her chairman, Cary Turner of Mount Olive, who could not be reached for comment because he is on an airplane out of the country today.

"There have not really been that many tie votes," Mrs. Parks said.

She said county commissioners heard recently that Albertson was going to introduce a bill to add a seventh at-large member. Commissioners had the county manager research the matter. What he found was that, out of the 430 votes cast between January and December 2008, there were only nine tie votes.

"I feel the chairman's job is more than just to control the meeting and vote only when there is a tie," Mrs. Parks said. "He can talk about his feelings, but he can't vote. The only accomplishment would be to keep an elected representative of the people from voting."