11/21/12 — Board changes meeting

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Board changes meeting

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 21, 2012 1:46 PM

There might be a difference of legal opinion as to whether or not Wayne County commissioners can reschedule their swearing-in date, but Tuesday morning they voted 5-0 to approve it anyway.

State law requires that newly elected county officials take their oath of office on the first Monday in December following each general election.

Frayda Bluestein, an associate dean and professor of public law and government at the N.C. School of Government, said she thought the board would be bound to follow the state law.

"I think, the way I read it, nothing supports it being optional," she said in an interview on Friday.

However, County Attorney Borden Parker said he thinks a majority vote by the board would be all that was needed to make the change.

Commissioner Ray Mayo's motion to change the date was unanimously approved during the board's Tuesday morning session. Commissioners Bud Gray and J.D. Evans did not attend the meeting.

"It is my opinion, my legal opinion, that the motion Mr. Mayo has made is appropriate and can be done despite of the fact of what the people up at the School of Government have been reported as saying," Parker said.

Before the vote, Commissioner Steve Keen asked to have Parker read the resolution for the vote.

The five Republicans, including Keen and Mayo, who will be sworn in, have asked N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul M. Newby to swear them in. However, Newby is not available on the first Monday in December, but is available on the first Tuesday.

In an interview last week, Chairman John Bell said that he and Evans had not been told about the plans.

He said he knew the Republican members had requested using the courtroom, but other than that, they had not communicated with him about the proposed change.

According to the resolution, commissioners normally meet on Tuesday and relatives of some of the commissioners-elect had made arrangements to attend the meeting on Tuesday.

The motion changed the first meeting for the swearing-in and the organization of the board to 9 a.m. on Dec. 4, with its briefing session to begin as normal at 8 a.m.

The board will meet in Superior Courtroom 1 for the swearing-in and organizational process and then resume its meeting in its regular meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

Unlike the commissioners' meeting room, the courtroom does not have the audio or video equipment necessary to record the historic event -- it will be the first time since Reconstruction that Republicans have controlled the board.

The county has hired a contractor to do the recording at a cost of approximately $200. The reception following the ceremony is expected to cost about $400.

"I have no objections to that whatsoever," Commissioner Jack Best said. "There has been some public objections, criticism of this board about having a small party after the procedures. I have no objection to that.

"In fact, I was talking to Mr. Mayo yesterday and he told me he was going to pass the hat to collect some money to help pay for that little reception. Mr. Mayo, I would like to be the first one to give you $20."

Best gave a $20 bill to Mayo, who passed it down to Bell.