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Official pitches rule change
Plan would clear up 'some issues' with agendas
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Forsyth County News

Charles Laughinghouse has some revisions to the rules for the 2009 board of commissioners to consider.

Laughinghouse, who chairs the commission, gave copies of proposed rules and procedures to the current board and soon-to-be Commissioners Jim Boff and Patrick Bell.

The changes that Laughinghouse said he has suggested include a deadline schedule for putting items on called meeting/work session agendas.

Commissioners who want to place items on the agenda after the deadline must be backed by a simple majority, or themselves and two other board members.

Any two commissioners or the chairman would need to submit items six working days before the meeting to meet the deadline. The rules for 2008 read that two commissioners can make a last-minute addition.

Commissioners could vote on the matter in January, though it may be discussed in a work session Tuesday.

"It's very disconcerting as a commissioner when somebody pops in on the day of the meeting and puts an item on the agenda with no supporting documentation," Laughinghouse said. "They expect you to have an intelligent conversation about it."

He said "some issues have popped up this year," prompting him to suggest the modifications. In particular, he cited a disagreement between Commissioner Brian Tam and former County Manager Rhonda Poston-O'Connor.

"[Poston O'Connor] followed the rules, but some people don't think the rules apply to them," Laughinghouse said.

Poston-O'Connor was chided by the commission on March 3, shortly after the disagreement, and was written up for "insubordinate" actions.

She was later fired for a matter related to the 2008 budget, a 3-2 decision that Laughinghouse did not support.

Tam could not be reached for comment Friday.

But Laughinghouse said making changes to the board's rules is not uncommon.

"There have been amendments made every year or every couple of years," said Laughinghouse, who has served on the panel since 2002.

Outgoing Commissioner David Richard said the move is "all about control on Charlie's part."

"He wants a majority being able to put an item on the agenda at the last minute," Richard said. "... And the bottom line is, if it's good enough for two commissioners, it should be good enough for the entire commission."

Richard, who is being replaced by Bell, said the deadline for submitting items to the agenda is "artificial."

"It doesn't matter whether it's two days, five days or whatever," Richard said. "Any two commissioners should be able to get something on the agenda any time they want."

Laughinghouse said County Attorney Ken Jarrard is taking a look at the proposed changes.

"It's essentially to tighten up whenever agenda items are presented," Laughinghouse said. "Staff and commissioners need to be able to have time to look at the backup documentation.

"It's going to hopefully put some order to it," he said.