Additional changes approved for 2012
In setting their rules for 2012, Forsyth County commissioners also amended the procedure for approving intergovernmental agreements.
Agreements required three of five commissioners’ approval in 2011, which was reduced from the four of five required in 2010.
The new rules state that in a first vote the agreement must receive approval by four commissioners.
If a super majority is not netted, the issue will go to a public hearing prior to a second vote.
At that time, three commissioners, or a simple majority, can approve the agreement.
Chairman Jim Boff said the changes allow the issue to keep moving while ensuring it’s something the representatives can agree on.
Vice Chairman Patrick Bell added that it “sets up the transparency and openness that if a super majority of the board doesn’t agree with something that it goes to a public hearing and then it can go forward or not.”
-- Alyssa LaRenzie
In a somewhat surprising move Thursday night, Forsyth County commissioners elected Jim Boff as their chairman for 2012.
The vote was 3-2, with opposition from Commiss-ioners Pete Amos and Brian Tam, who served as chairman in 2011.
Prior to the decision, the commission voted 5-0 to strip most of the chairman’s duties or privileges, including the ability to add agenda items, from the rules for 2012. The chairman will still lead the meetings.
No reasons were given publically for the turn of events, though after the meeting Thursday the officials offered differing views.
"There have been many predictions about this," said Boff, who didn’t hold an office last year. "In reality, what we have seen is the dynamic shifting of things depending on what some issues are and depending on how relationships are going.
"I think it will probably continue to shift and drift as time goes on and commissioners see different needs for things in their district and things in the county."
Amos said he felt Tam deserved another year as chairman, but added, "I’m sure Mr. Boff will do a good job."
Commissioner Todd Levent motioned to elect Boff. "I just felt since he’s retired, he has more time to spend on the county’s business," he said.
Boff, Tam and Patrick Bell will conclude their terms at the end of this year. To date, only Bell has announced that he intends to seek re-election.
Tam is the lone sitting commissioner in his second term. The other four are serving their first.
The chairmanship, elected each year among the five members, puts one official at the helm to keep meetings in order.
The chairman also typically represents the commission on various boards or at functions.
Also Thursday, Bell retained his post as vice chairman for a second year. His appointment was also a 3-2 vote, with the same split.
The vice chairman stands in for the chairman when he is absent.
Levent will serve as secretary of the commission, replacing Amos. That appointment passed 5-0.
The commission also removed additional powers of the chairman prior to electing a new one.
Those powers included the ability to add an item to the agenda without a second commissioner consenting, as well as the ability to remove an item from the agenda up to two times per year.
Some language clarifying all the offices, including that of chairman, was also added, stating those positions "shall have the same rights and privileges of the other commissioners and no other authority above and beyond any other commissioner."
Bell said those additions keep the office in check, since all commissioners are elected in the same way by voters.
"It always seems that the person elected chairman somehow ends up believing they’re supposed to do more than a commissioner," Bell said. "The chairman basically runs the meeting and represents the county on various boards."
Bell said he didn’t seek the chairmanship this year because he doesn’t have the time available he’d like to dedicate to the post.
Tam wouldn’t say whether he wanted to serve as chairman again this year, stating only: "I’m open to do the job I’m asked to do."
He added that he could not support Bell in any office due to "his continued badgering of our state attorney general’s office."
Attorney General Sam Olens said Friday that he had met with Tam to discuss a separate issue. During that meeting, the topic of Bell’s communications with the office arose.
Olens said Bell had disagreed with a decision made by a member of his office that stated Bell and other commissioners had violated the open meetings act.
The decision stemmed from a complaint by a resident that Amos, Bell and Tam had assembled a quorum without giving public notice.
The commissioners were reportedly seen at Cumming City Hall for what Bell has maintained were separate and informal discussions with Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt.
Bell has said he was entering the building as Amos and Tam were leaving and that Levent arrived about 20 minutes later.
No official action was taken during any of the talks, which reportedly dealt with the possible extension of the 1-cent sales tax.
Voters approved a referendum on the matter Nov. 8.
Bell said Olens has not yet been able to provide him with the code that he violated and acknowledged that he’s been public about his opinion on that.
"I don’t see my trying to defend what I believe was an erroneous opinion has anything to do with being vice chairman," he said.