06/29/09 — Rules about officials, boards limited

View Archive

Rules about officials, boards limited

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 29, 2009 1:46 PM

It is common practice for county commissioners to serve on the boards whose members they appoint, according to David Lawrence, a professor at the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"It is extremely common for commissioners to serve on other boards appointed by county commissioners," Lawrence said. "That is nothing particularly unusual. They do so in large part because county government is so fragmented and it is a good way to provide more coordination of government. It is not a conflict of interest in any way."

In Wayne County, recent attention has been focused on the practice primarily because of Commissioner Steve Keen, who is also a member of the Planning Board.

Earlier this month, commissioners by a 4-2 vote agreed to review the duties of the Planning Board with an eye toward taking a more active role themselves in planning.

Keen and Commissioner Andy Anderson voted against the proposal, saying they believed Commissioner John Bell's motion would open the door to commissioners taking over the planning process.

Bell has said he based his motion on comments by Anderson about the need to review the county's decades-old planning ordinance. Bell said his intent is not to do away with the Planning Board, but to give commissioners more say-so in approving site plans for development, the same as the Goldsboro City Council.

Meanwhile, in an earlier interview, commission Chairman Bud Gray said he supports looking at possibly revising the Planning Board regulations -- including whether a commissioner should be allowed to serve.

Keen has pointed out that his fellow board members serve on other boards as well. In particular, he has noted the transportation boards Commissioner Jack Best serves on.

Drawing even more attention to Keen's service on the Planning Board has been his petition to rezone property he owns on U.S. 70 west of Goldsboro near the Rosewood Wal-Mart.

Keen has recused himself during Planning Board and commission discussions of the request.

Lawrence said rules regarding a board member recusing himself from an issue are not as clear as is being able to serve on other boards.

"There is no doubt that the person cannot vote," Lawrence said.

What isn't as clear is whether the same holds true for having to move away from the board seat when the issue is discussed, he said.

"Some do it because it looks better," he said.

Nor, he added, is it clear whether the person may comment on an issue once they have recused themselves.

Lawrence said once a person announces that he has recused himself, he is not sure if the same announcement has to be made each time the issue is discussed.

It is not mandatory to have a planning board, he said. Under the law, commissioners could serve as the Planning Board, he added.

"Nobody does it that way, but legally they could," Lawrence said.

Commissioners and the committees they serve on are:

Bud Gray: Solid Waste (chairman); Wayne Governmental; Emergency Services/Fire Commissioner; Wayne County Animal Control Advisory; Eastern Carolina Job Training Consortium.

Jack Best: Wayne Governmental; Wayne Health Corp. Board of Trustees; Municipal Planning Organization (MPO); Eastern Carolina Rural Planning Organization (RPO); Wayne County Development Alliance; U.S. 70 Highway Corridor Commission; Wayne County Industrial and Business Park Development Corp.; Building/Grounds/Facilities.

John Bell: Solid Waste; Wayne Governmental (chairman); Wayne County Council on Aging; Wayne County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council; Wayne County Criminal Justice Partnership Advisory (Day Reporting Center); Eastpointe Board of Directors; Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority; Wayne County Latino Council; Wayne County Industrial and Business Park Development Corp.; Appointment/Awards Recognition (chairman).

Steve Keen: Solid Waste; Wayne County Social Services; Eastern Carolina Council; Board of Elections liaison; Planning Board.

Sandra McCullen: Wayne County Board of Health; MPO (alternate); Appointment/Awards Recognition.

J.D. Evans: Wayne County Public Library Board of Trustees; WAGES; Wayne County Board of Social Services; Building/Grounds/Facilities (chairman).

Andy Anderson: Wayne County Historical Society/Tourism; North Carolina's Eastern Region; Wayne County Development Alliance; Wayne County Industrial and Business Park Development Corp.; Wayne County Board of Social Services; Appointment/Awards Recognition (chairman); Building/Grounds/Facilities.

All of the commissioners serve on the education and finance committees.