Forsyth County’s planning board on Tuesday night revisited its members’ versions of events from February’s unclear officer elections.
In an hour-and-a-half work session, the members made it clear that they disagreed.
Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard said several concerns were raised to him and planning department staff about the Feb. 19 and 26 meetings in regards to the elections of chairman and secretary.
“My objective today is to approach you with a lot of humility and hopefully we can have a constructive conversation about all of those things that have occurred,” Jarrard said.
“Also, just see if we can figure out if we can have a commonality of what occurred on the 19th and then just figure out what went wrong, if anything, and then move forward, sort of clear the decks if we can.”
The issues centered on whether the board voted to nominate or elect officers Feb. 19 and whether the minutes of that meeting approved a week later correctly reflected what had happened.
A vote on Pam Livesay to continue as chairman tied 2-2 on Feb. 19, which automatically postponed the issue to the next work session.
Member Alan Neal arrived late that day, and so cast the tiebreaking vote Tuesday night.
He voted against Livesay’s reappointment, as she would decline the nomination, since she is not serving another term on the board.
Tuesday night likely was her last meeting before Commissioner Brian Tam names a replacement as she steps down after 16 years on the panel.
The board then elected Pam Bowman to serve as chair in a 3-1 vote, with Joe Moses opposed and Craig Nolen absent.
Before getting to the Livesay tiebreaker, the board spent about 80 minutes rehashing the differing versions of events as to whether the vote was to nominate or elect, since the wording had been disputed in a draft of the minutes.
Planning Commissioner Joe Moses expressed concerns about phone calls from Livesay and Bowman to staff asking for clarification on the meeting summary posted on the county’s Web site.
Their questions about whether the votes for chairman and secretary were to nominate or appoint influenced a change in the minutes, according to Moses.
“It appears to me that you all are trying to finagle the election after this election,” he said.
Bowman said her concern was raised when she reviewed the unofficial meeting summary online and saw the wording that Nolen was elected, but she was confident her motion had been to nominate.
Based on a suggested procedure for the elections provided by department staff, Bowman expressed concern after reading the summary that the process to appoint Nolen hadn’t yet been complete.
Jarrard’s interpretation was that since the board voted 4-0, and no other nominations were made, Nolen became the secretary.
“I think the problem is the [planning] commission is unaware of what it voted on that evening,” Jarrard said. ”I can commit to you next time you have a meeting, those minutes will be in front of you on what you’re approving.”
He felt the board approved minutes on Feb. 26 that reflected that outcome, though a draft had also been prepared that reflected a nomination and listed Bowman as still being secretary.
To clear things up, the board voted 4-0 on Tuesday’s to ratify Nolen’s election, with him being absent. No reason for his absence was specified.
Moses felt the change in the minutes based on the conversations afterward constituted an incorrect procedure.
“That’s why it’s called altering the minutes and that’s illegal and unethical,” he said.
Moses requested a postponement of the minute vote on Feb. 26, but didn’t receive any support.
Other members said Tuesday they felt comfortable that the version they approved was correct.
“I’m not accusing anybody of doing anything as far as that’s concerned,” Jarrard said in regards to the allegation of altering the minutes.
“We’re talking about two competing drafts, and bottom line I think the wrong draft got put up on the county Web page. I think you approved the minutes that contained the Craig Nolen signature block.”
The board had no zoning applications to discuss, since no public hearings were scheduled for this month. The regular meeting planned for March 26 was canceled.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in Forsyth County at 94, top 8,800 statewide