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Office space saga still not resolved
Move continues as new year nears
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Forsyth County News

Charles Laughinghouse says working out of two offices isn't the most efficient way to conduct county business.

Most of his belongings have been moved out of one office and into a smaller one after his fellow Forsyth County commissioners voted 3-2 last month to evict him.

The majority of the commission said the largest office in the administration building should belong to the county manager, a post that is vacant.

Laughinghouse, who chairs the commission, said he's still in the process of moving.

"It's been gradual and there have been some hiccups on getting packing supplies," he said, adding that he comes in nights and weekends to do most of the work.

After a majority vote of the commission, there's not a whole lot Laughinghouse can do about it. Not until next year anyway.

"What's going to happen after the first of the year, I don't know," he said.

There's widespread speculation that Laughinghouse will be allowed to return to his old office next month after the dynamics of the commission change.

In six days, Jim Boff will assume the District 5 post, replacing Linda Ledbetter, who chose not to seek re-election.

Patrick Bell will be the new representative for District 4 after ousting incumbent David Richard in the July 15 primary.

Richard, who led the charge to remove the chairman from the large office, said he didn't think Laughinghouse would go through the trouble of relocating supplies in his office only to go right back to it.

"It would be crazy for him not to stay in that office," Richard said. "He's already moved most everything. It doesn't make sense not to move the rest."

Laughinghouse could decide to move back into the old office, either by his own motion or that of the future board.

If so, Richard said, it would prove "exactly what I've said all along."

"It would prove that he feels he's more important than the rest of us," he said.

Richard said the chairman's new location is the former office of the deputy county manager.

Doug Derrer, the former deputy county manager, is serving as interim county manager.

In a letter to the editor in which she mentioned the office move, Ledbetter wrote that Laughinghouse "never intended to follow the will of a board he did not control."

Ledbetter said she's received letters and e-mails from residents accusing her of trying to "force this poor man who can't lift anything out of his office."

"It wasn't about him," Ledbetter said. "It was about him not abiding by the 3-2 rule of the Forsyth County commission."

Laughinghouse did not comply with the initial vote to move in November because of health concerns. Facing surgery, the chairman told the commissioners he "cannot lift ... cannot bend under doctor's orders."

The board then voted 3-2, with Laughinghouse and Jim Harrell opposed, to have staff move his belongings for him.

Laughinghouse said he's been doing most of the moving himself. He added that working out of two offices right now "makes it a little bit difficult to get things done."