Tricks of the trade, tales of BOC meetings

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2014


To the editor:

The majority on the Board of Commissioners (BOC) were celebrating at their August 18 meeting.  You could feel it in the air.  Barely suppressing giggles, Owens, Gage, Holbert, and even Pack, spoke openly and freely, saying some really suspect things and maligning Ray Gasperson more than they ever had before in one meeting.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Why?  Because they’d finally shut down citizen comments which, at just the last meeting, had been robust.   Now, under the majority’s new rules, they’re just a trickle.  Mission Accomplished!  All of the comments now must be made at the beginning of each meeting, before any of the commissioners’ discussions of agenda items have been heard.  And each citizen’s comments are limited to just three minutes, no matter how many agenda items might be topics for discussion.

But that’s not all.  Drastically limiting citizen comments isn’t enough.  The majority played the best game of “government by ambush” that they’d played in years.

Even though the majority had talked about extending Robert Williamson’s economic development consulting contract for months, they had not placed it on the agenda that was circulated before the commissioners meeting.  That meant that citizens wouldn’t know it would be discussed at the meeting.  Perhaps they would have attended if they’d known.  But the majority added this important, and very controversial, agenda item only after the meeting had already started, when no one else could sign up to speak.  Government by ambush.

But that wasn’t all..Only after more than an hour had passed, when it was time for “presentation of the economic development plan”, Michael Gage dropped the bombshell:  The majority was actually going to discuss, and act on, making Mr. Williamson Polk County’s “interim economic development director.”  Surely the majority knew that well before the agenda was published, and well before the board packet was assembled, and well before the majority coyly amended the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, actually misleading the public by saying they planned solely to discuss “extending Mr. Williamson’s contract”. They knew from the get-go that they were going to do much more.   Big time government by ambush.

Once upon a time, during a better board of commissioners’ term, that board enacted a rule saying that all agenda items must be disclosed at least 6 days before the meeting, unless there was an emergency.  Another rule said that agenda items must be clearly and completely stated, so that other commissioners, staff and the public could know, well in advance, what would be discussed at the meeting.

As one of their first acts upon taking office almost two years ago, the current majority rescinded both of those rules.    Why would anyone do that?  How could there be any objection to such rules?  It’s pretty clear now, isn’t it?

Mr. Williamson apparently was in on the secret plan.    Notwithstanding that neither extending his contract nor making him “interim economic development director” was on the agenda, Williamson came armed with sheaves of papers with salary information from other counties and about the salaries of Polk County’s last two economic development directors.  He came armed with his own write-up about his achievements.  Does Robert Williamson have ESP?  Or was he in on the deception?

It all wound up, as usual, with the majority granting their pal a great big pay raise over what the two previous directors were paid, as recently as a month or two ago.

An immediate 30% raise for their pal, over what his predecessors were paid.


Renée McDermott