By: Steve Trubilla
On Monday, 27 Jan 2014 I, along with many others attended the “Special” meeting called by the county commissioners to discuss the “Burning of the Records.”
As it turns out, the meeting may not have been all that “Special.” In fact it was not special at all.
General statues specifically dictate how a special-called meeting is to be conducted. It is not a flexible “do as you want” to serve your own interest process.
There are hard and fast rules of what can be addressed, written notice and acknowledgment by commissioners is required. There are timelines that have to be met, notice is to be posted on bulletin boards, etc., etc.
If you care to go to http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/statutes/statutes.asp, you will find more on this than you every cared to know.
Specifically, read what is written on General Statues 143-318.9 and 153A-40a.
Why is this important? It is important because things are not always as they are represented and “We the People” are greatly impacted by what happens at these meetings.
Such things are governed by laws. Laws that circumstance have proven to be necessary to protect everyone.
If officials simply ignore them, there are consequences, serious consequences, and there need to be.
There is another General Statue that I and others have been talking about, that is General Statute 14-230, willfully failing to discharge duties. You may want to read this one as well.
In part it says, if any clerk of any court of record, sheriff, magistrate, school board member, county commissioner, county surveyor, coroner, treasurer, or official of any of the State institutions, or of any county, city or town, shall willfully omit, neglect or refuse to discharge any of the duties of his office, for default whereof it is not elsewhere provided that he shall be indicted, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
There is a difference between making a mistake and committing a crime.
Now, given all I have seen and learned since I have been involved with local politics, I have concluded most things are not a matter of willful deceit or corruption. It is more, in my opinion, a matter of general competence.
A lack of knowledge and experience seems to be more the case other than actual, willful corruption.
If it were a crime to lack knowledge, there is more than enough evidence to convict many of us.
I am sure you have often heard ignorance of the law is not a defense.
County commissioners are obligated to learn the laws as they relate to their duties. They are not left just to flounder in this. The county attorney is hired and required to guide them. In large part it is what he gets paid for.
The impact on every citizen can be brutal if they simply do not know what they are doing.
What has played out with this “Special” meeting is yet another example of what I have been writing about for a very long time.
Again I will say it, my opinion is, many of the problems we are having in Franklin County have little to do with traditional corruption, and much more to do with people just not knowing what they are doing.
This “Special” meeting was called and it simply did not have to be a special meeting. The meeting could have simply been rescheduled.
When it was invoked as a special meeting, special rules/laws applied. Based on what I have read and how the meeting was scheduled and conducted, I believe many laws may have been violated.
If this is the case, then it may be time to address these ongoing problems with General Statue 14-230.
There was much anticipation Monday night that finally there would be total disclosure, acceptance of responsibility and the possibility we would be on our way to a healing process over the destruction of the records.
Well, this was not going to be the case.
Instead citizens were cut short in their comments, partisan politics was served up, and the usual suspects doubled down to defend what was done.
We missed a great opportunity to find some closure on this.
In my opinion, everyone’s expectations were dashed as Commissioner Sidney Dunston methodically minimized what many that came to voice their views had to say.
Rather than capitalizing on the moment, he with the support of the county attorney, stood on what they represented to be rules for a special meeting.
Time for public comments has been fixed by the board at five minutes for individual citizens to speak. Having reviewed the General Statues on this, I found it is not a hard and fast rule.
Setting time limits for those that wish to speak does make sense. If limits were not set, meetings could go on forever and the planned agenda might never be accomplished.
The time limits cannot be manipulated to the point it denies the public’s voice.
At this meeting, citizens continued to advance questions, asking for answers, and offering statements.
When their set five minutes for speaking expired they were told they could no longer speak.
Commissioner Harry Foy requested that they be given additional time and was told no by Commissioner Dunston.
The meeting concluded with what amounted to a “chewing out” by many board members of those that had the temerity of questing what has been happening.
This is a sad commentary on the course of events here in Franklin County.
Look to my column next week for more on this.