A committee formed by the Liberty County Board of Commissioners met Wednesday to consider amending an attendance policy that affects those appointed to serve on locally created county boards.
Commissioners expressed concern that the current board-attendance policy might need to be strengthened, and they want to ensure that the people they appointed to serve on local boards would be responsive to the public and conduct themselves appropriately as an extension of the commission.
Committee members also touched on the board-appointment process and board members’ length of terms.
During an Oct. 17 commission meeting, commissioners Gary Gilliard, Eddie Walden, Justin Frasier and Marion Stevens Sr. agreed to serve on the committee. Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, County Administrator Joey Brown and County Attorney Kelly Davis sat in on the policy-review meeting this week.
The commission had directed Davis to take a look at the BoC’s board policies and help determine which locally created boards might need more oversight by commissioners. Brown said three such locally created boards were the recreation board, Keep Liberty Beautiful and the fire authority.
One locally created board, the Citizens Advisory Committee, has “gone away,” Stevens said.
According to the attendance policy currently in place, if a board member misses “three or more consecutive regular meetings” or “more than 45 percent of the regularly held and specially held meetings,” it would be considered an automatic resignation by the board member.
Should a board member reach this absentee threshold, the board chairman must notify the board in writing of the member’s failure to attend meetings. Davis cautioned the committee that once the commission receives a notification of failure to attend, the whole board must vote on whether to remove the board member.
The authority to remove an individual from a county board does not rest with one commissioner alone, he emphasized. Likewise, the authority to appoint a person to a board also rests with the entire commission, not solely with the commissioner recommending the appointment. However, board policy can be revised to grant “strong deference” to a district commissioner’s board nominee unless the commission finds some overwhelming reason not to approve the appointment, the county attorney said. Davis said “a grudge” is not cause to remove someone from a board.
Committee members agreed there needs to be language added to the policy that stipulates what would be considered an excused absence, such as a medical or family emergency. Davis commented that limited participation in a meeting by phone or Skype would be considered valid attendance in today’s technologically driven world.
The board-review committee also discussed its desire to ensure board members represent commissioners properly by conducting themselves with decorum and by being law-abiding citizens. Should a board member be arrested on a drunk-driving charge, for example, or behave contrary to the commission’s standards, then commissioners could vote to remove them from a board, Davis said.
Walden went further, saying some board members may attend meetings regularly, but “do nothing to interject” and, therefore, do not truly serve in the capacities for which they were appointed. He said the majority of citizens appointed to local boards serve to the best of their abilities, and commit much time and effort to do so. These people deserve to be recognized for their service, Walden said.
Commissioners pointed out that some boards have six-year terms and others have three- to four-year terms. Lengthy terms may deny some commissioners the chance to appoint their nominee of choice to a board, and they might have to settle for a predecessor’s choice, they said. The predecessor also might be the candidate who opposed a current commissioner during their run for office, committee members said.
“You need somebody that represents you and what you’re trying to do while you’re in office,” Gilliard said.
Committee members concluded the current attendance policy for locally created boards is enforceable, and they directed Davis to draft a revised policy to bring before the commission.