No law broken

By Vicki Hyatt | Mar 05, 2014

 

Recent questions on whether the county commissioners violated state statutes in appointing a single individual to too many boards were determined to be without merit.

County Attorney Chip Killian told the commissioners Monday he had researched the issue, conferred with experts at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government and concluded the fairgrounds board, as a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization, did not meet the statutory definition of a public body.

Republican county commissioner candidate Denny King wrote a letter to the interim county manager asking whether the appointment of a board of equalization and review member who was serving on two other boards violated state law and the state constitution.

He sent a copy of the letter to local government activist Monroe Miller who penned an emails alleging Mary Ann Enloe’s service on the Board of Equalization and Review, the Haywood Community College governing board and on the fairgrounds governing board violated the state statute that provides a single individual can only hold one elective office and one other appointive office in state or local government, or if it is an appointive office, can hold no more than two.

"Mary Ann) Enloe has been on the Board of Equalization for a while now while Chairman of the Fairgrounds Board, so it looks like the first time she violated this NC General Statue was when the commissioners appointed her to the HCC Board of Trustees," Miller wrote, later asking whether this was a "jail-able offense."

Killian said the matter surfaced because of an “apparent lack of understanding about the issue.”

Those who volunteer for county government boards are asked to list other boards they serve on, and Killian said there is a county policy that invites people to apply for boards to encourage wide participation across the county.

Each county commissioner serves on three or four other boards in the county as ex-officio members, so that it not a violation of the state statute, either, Killian said.

There were also questions regarding the tax collector position where the incumbent elected official, David Francis, was given other tax-related duties. Killian said that, too, is allowable under the law.

When the allegations were initially raised, Enloe resigned her post on the fairgrounds board saying she wanted to avoid any embarrassment to the commissioners.

Comments (12)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 05, 2014 08:05

Respectfully, I question the advice County Attorney Chip Killian told the commissioners.  (And I hope others do as well.)  Here is a large attorney firm's opinion on the matter:

 

The term "public body" includes not only the governing board of a public entity, but also all committees and subcommittees of that governing board as well.  In addition, every entity created or controlled by a public body also is covered by the Open Meetings Law.  Thus, even a supporting foundation that is a nonprofit corporation, but whose directors are appointed by a public body's governing board, is usually a covered public body.

 

http://www.wardandsmith.com/articles/the-north-carolina-open-meetings-law-what-members-of-governing-boards-and-citizens-need-to-know

 

If the above referenced attorney firm suggests there is more than one way to interpret the matter, then perhaps Ms. Enloe should get extra credit for resigning so as to avoid just this exact circumstance.  It won't take long for someone to find this conflicting opinion and take it to court for a judge to decide.  (I'm thinking more officials in public service could take notes from Ms. Enloe on how to avoid perceptions of inappropriateness.)

 

 



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 05, 2014 08:14

"the fairgrounds board, as a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization, did not meet the statutory definition of a public body."  -- This seems to be the key to the whole story.  What is special about the fairgrounds board that makes it something other than a "public body" that another law firm says is "usually considered a public body"?  Perhaps that is the missing detail that causes an "apparent lack of understanding about the issue".



Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Mar 05, 2014 10:25

                 The original basis for exemptions from taxation came from the Founding Principle that no man should have to provide support in body or goods for any religious opinion. Churches and religious organizations were exempt if they did not endorse any particular candidate. This Founding Principle has been perverted to include anyone or group that claims "not-for-profit" status. It is pure nonsense. Of course the 4H board is a public board.

                C.Z.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 05, 2014 14:00

"It is pure nonsense." -- So will anyone stand up to say, "The Emperor has no clothes!"



Posted by: Nicole Harley | Mar 06, 2014 00:19

A portion of Haywood County Fairgrounds, Inc., Amended and Restated By-Laws:

Article ll Purpose

***B. Act as the Haywood County Board of Commissioners’ fiduciary agent for Fairgrounds funding, as instructed by the Haywood County Finance Director.***

Article lll Fairgrounds Board Membership

A. The Fairgrounds Board is appointed by the Haywood County Board of Commissioners.

B. ***The BOCC set the number of Fairgrounds Board Members at seven (7) including a county commissioner who is a voting member of the Fairgrounds Board.

Article lV Officers

***F. Treasurer

***Financial records of the Fairgrounds Board are public records and shall be made available to the public pursuant to the North Carolina Public Records Act as set forth in Chapter 132 of the General Statutes of North Carolina.

Article V Meetings

The Fairgrounds Board is a public body and all meetings shall adhere to the North Carolina Open Meetings Law as set forth l Article 33C, Chapter 143 of the general Statutes of North Carolina.

 



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 06, 2014 07:50

So WHO declared no law was broken?  (As this article is titled.)  And who has the "apparent lack of understanding about the issue”?  The facts are stacking up that the County Attorney Chip Killian has given erroneous advice to the commissioners.  Have the commissioners made any official statement on the matter? 

 

Did The Mountaineer just declare no law was broken?  Did The Mountaineer reach out to the commissioners for comment?  Did The Mountaineer know that the Haywood County Fairgrounds, Inc. declare themselves a "public body" as defined by law?  Did The Mountaineer have access to Google that would have shown a NC law firm with many lawyers says specifically that this type of non-profit entity is usually considered a "public body" per NC law?  Are the facts being distorted or selectively reported?

 

"Each county commissioner serves on three or four other boards in the county as ex-officio members" -- So this seems to suggest there could be multiple illegal entities in the county that need investigation.  This is a BREAKING NEWS investigative story that should be front page!  We have ILLEGAL activity and potential conspiracy to deflect the accusations!  If this is WILLFUL, it's criminal.  If this is inadvertent, then someone needs to figure out how far back illegal boards have been influencing the district.

 

The article and "County Attorney Chip Killian" has not provided any evidence that no law was broken.  Evidence says otherwise.  This is a dangerous game being played here.  Once the public believes the people in charge are illegitimate, they will not follow the law.



Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Mar 06, 2014 08:57

Just a typical day in the operations of government in Haywood County.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 06, 2014 09:14

"Just a typical day in the operations of government in Haywood County." -- No, sir.  As a matter of principle this process can't end this way.  There's a reason the above referenced document is titled, "What Members of Governing Boards and Citizens Need to Know".  We CITIZENS have to expect and demand our government to lead with integrity and our award-winning local newspaper serve us well.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 06, 2014 09:22

The error of serving on too many boards was initially described as a law that was not known by those that were involved.  That's understandable as common citizens serving in government can't possibly know everything.  Only if there is willful disregard for the law is the offense a serious one.  I am reminded of a recent article published in this paper:

 

"Admitted ignorance is a sign of maturity, of a willingness to learn. It can be remedied with facts. What really does grave damage is when politicians think they know something and act on it — even when what they “know” is false, misleading, or incomplete. That’s how tax money is squandered, government power is abused, and problems are allowed to fester."

 

http://themountaineer.villagesoup.com/p/n-c-doesnt-pay-more-for-less/1134638

 



Posted by: Nicole Harley | Mar 06, 2014 09:49

NC Constitution

ARTICLE VI

Sec. 9.  Dual office holding.

(1)        Prohibitions.  It is salutary that the responsibilities of self-government be widely shared among the citizens of the State and that the potential abuse of authority inherent in the holding of multiple offices by an individual be avoided.***

No person shall hold concurrently any two or more appointive offices or places of trust or profit, or any combination of elective and appointive offices or places of trust or profit, except as the General Assembly shall provide by general law.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 06, 2014 10:11

”Killian said there is a county policy that invites people to apply for boards to encourage wide participation across the county" -- Someone chip in here but does the "county policy" conflict with the NC Constitution?  The County Policy promotes/encourages wide influence by a few while the NC Constitution promotes/encourages the opposite.

 

I'm no public policy expert, but if given the two conflicting directives, I think the NC Constitution would prevail over a county policy.  Who are the unnamed "experts at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government" who say there is no problem here?  I'm no "expert" but even I can see the problem!



Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Mar 07, 2014 10:29

               Of course this needs further review.

               Too few people administering WE the people results in too much power in too few hands. Laws against this came from the conservative view that James Madison had too much control of the new Constitution as he was appointed to be the main author, primary author of "The Federalist", was on commitees in the House and Senate and was recorder of the whole shebang. While any review of his actions will clearly expose any attempt to claim he in any way deviated from the cause of Liberty, not all elected officials are as patriotic in their actions.

 

              C.Z.



If you wish to comment, please login.