Polk rescinds commissioner’s ICC board appointment
Published 6:03 pm Thursday, July 11, 2013
The Polk County Board of Commissioners rescinded their Jan. 7 decision to reappoint commissioner Ray Gasperson to the Isothermal Community College (ICC) Board of Trustees.
The decision to rescind the appointment was approved by a 4-1 vote during the commissioners’ July 8 meeting, with Gasperson voting against and commissioner chair Michael Gage, vice chair Ted Owens and commissioners Tom Pack and Keith Holbert approving the motion.
County attorney Jana Berg began the discussion saying that she was asked to research the appointment that occurred shortly after the new board of commissioners was sworn in. Berg said that commissioners believed all commissioner appointments to volunteer boards made on Jan. 7 were ex officio, or liaison appointments but the ICC board is not one of those appointments. The ICC board has two Polk County residents, who are both voting members. Gasperson’s appointment did not expire until June 30.
“Logically I can see where all the appointments that were made were intended for ex officio,” Berg said.
She said that any citizen can sit on the board and the county’s policy is to advertise for that position to be filled, which prior to Jan. 7 the position wasn’t advertised. The county did advertise for the position in the Bulletin prior to the July 8 meeting when Gasperson’s appointment was rescinded. The county now has two applications for the ICC board, including Gasperson’s and from Polk resident Don Hoffman.
Gasperson said all commissioners gave unanimous support of his reappointment on Jan. 7 and he feels that after four years of serving on the ICC board he has become an increasingly effective member. He said he spoke with the N.C. Institute of Government’s Bob Joyce, who after reviewing documents concluded that even though the reappointment was made early, it is still valid and there is no reason for the board of commissioners to take any further action.
Berg said commissioners have two options: to ratify Gasperson’s appointment made on Jan. 7, effective July 1 or to rescind Gasperson’s Jan. 7 appointment, review applications and make the board appointment at the Aug. 5 board of commissioner meeting.
There were seven residents who spoke of Gasperson’s service to the ICC board over the last four years and urged commissioners to honor the appointment.
Sally Jo Carter said she has been connected to the ICC board in many ways and for years there was no representation on the board for Polk County due to vacancies not being filled. She said she was a ICC board member when Gasperson joined the board and he was dedicated, highly thought of and did well.
“Many didn’t come (to meetings),” said Carter. “He did. He and I were there. Polk County was represented. I firmly believe you want to improve conditions in this county and I hope you will do what is right and what is beneficial to this county and continue Ray Gasperson’s term on the ICC board.”
Renée McDermott said she’s heard from an excellent source that the state level Republican Party had a “hissy fit” over the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners’ selection of a Democratic ICC board member and sent out letters to Rutherford County Republican board members chastising them for doing so.
“There’s good reason to believe that your sudden desire to rescind commissioner Gasperson’s selection is because you’ve become the targets of that hissy fit too,” McDermott said. “That’s not a sufficient, or a legal reason to rescind your appointment. It’s just cowardly.”
McDermott said if commissioners rescind the appointment, “for purely partisan reasons, and that would be the only reason for you to rescind,” it will be the precedent that they set for the new majority that will inevitably be elected one day. Otherwise, she said, commissioners will need to tell their appointees that their appointments may not survive the next election.
“You’ve already damaged people’s faith in Polk County badly enough,” said McDermott. “Don’t further damage the public’s view of Polk County government.”
Gasperson is the only Democrat on board of commissioners with the other four members Republican.
Deborah Odonell said she did some research to see the job description of an ICC board member and called some of the members and got glowing reports about Gasperson.
“I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to reappoint him,” said Odonell. “I think the experience he gained volunteering for four years would make him even better.”
Rachel Goettert said Polk should keep Gasperson on the ICC board because he has done good work. She also said rescinding the appointment will set a bad precedence and commissioners should follow through with what they voted on.
Gage admitted he did not realize what type of appointment the ICC board was when he made the appointment and said the fact is the county is supposed to take applications for the appointment.
Owens said the only reason Gasperson’s ICC appointment was listed during the Jan. 7 meeting was because he is a commissioner. When new boards of commissioners are elected it is common practice to reassign commissioners to volunteer boards. Owens said rescinding Gasperson’s appointment doesn’t mean Gasperson can’t be appointed to the ICC board.
“Rescinding this does not mean Ray can’t serve,” Owens said. “He can still be considered.”