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Chairman ousted from large office
Split vote sends Laughinghouse packing
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Forsyth County News

The chairman of the Forsyth County commission has to move out of his office by Nov. 15, though he's not sure where he's going.

In a split decision Tuesday afternoon, which triggered a 10-minute finger-pointing session, the board voted 3-2 to evict Chairman Charles Laughinghouse from the administration building's largest office.

Commissioner David Richard made the motion to remove the chairman from his office and dedicate the space to the county manager.

Commissioners Brian Tam and Linda Ledbetter backed the measure.

Richard did not specify where Laughinghouse could go.

"Charlie can go to whatever open office is available," Richard said Wednesday. "I did not mandate any office for him."

Laughinghouse said Wednesday he was not clear on where he was to move his belongings.

"I have no idea where, really," he said.

The chairman said the decision was "pure, personal spite and envy" on the part of his colleagues.

"When you're an adult dealing with children, after a while you just learn to ignore them," he said.

Laughinghouse said he did not plan to appeal the decision, but the board could "certainly" overturn it.

"We'll see what the next board does ... what goes around comes around," he said.

The terms of Richard and Ledbetter end in January. Jim Boff succeeds Ledbetter, who chose not to seek re-election.
Richard was defeated in the July 15 Republican primary. Voters will determine his successor next week.

Clouding the issue, the county fired its manager in September. Doug Derrer, the former deputy county manager, is filling the post on an interim basis after the departure of Rhonda Poston-O'Connor.

It could not be determined if Derrer would move into Laughinghouse's office next month. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Following Richard's motion Tuesday, Laughinghouse asked Richard about his motive.

Richard said he wished to put full-time staff into "offices that will allow them to do their jobs better and be more effective."

Commissioner Jim Harrell offered an amendment to the motion, which failed 3-2, that would have made the measure effective Feb. 1.

"This is probably the most small-minded, petty thing I've ever seen the board do," Harrell said. "I'm really disappointed in all of you."

Following the vote to evict the chairman, Laughinghouse looked at Richard.

"Childish," he said, "if this is what you want to leave as your legacy."

Said Richard: "Don't talk to me about legacy. The last thing you want to talk about is legacy."

Laughinghouse countered that it was the "first thing I want to talk about."

"Let's talk about legacy," he said. "What legacy are you leaving behind, Commissioner Richard?"

Laughinghouse said he could see where the argument was coming from, but "an effective county manager should spend very little time in his office. He should be out in the field among the troops determining what's going on rather than sitting in his office."

Ledbetter disagreed.

"Part-time employees should not have the best offices. Full-time employees should," she said.

Laughinghouse said the matter was untimely.

"If this is an issue, it's an issue that should be taken up by a board come January," he said. "I'm getting a little fed up with a lame duck board making decisions that affect this county."

Ledbetter said she resented the comment.