We all know the saying, “the more things change, the more things remain the same”. Well, this rule seems to apply to every Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), so if you really expected something different then your expectations, have gone unfulfilled. If you thought 3-2 votes were thing of the past, then you’d be disappointed again. Opposition to the previous board seem to harp on that issue often, as did critics of the previous board to them as well. Union County is diverse to use a “Democrat” word and so unified decisions will be rare — especially given the stakes. If you’re curious, just peruse the campaign contributors to Messieurs Simpson, Thomas and Johnson, as in 2006 the money tells all.
But not to disappoint you completely, we did have one five-0 vote — Jerry Simpson was elected to lead the board as chairman. After that, all 3-2′s and even a 4-1 vote?
Since it was an organizational meeting, the primary business was taking the oath of office and then appointing members to the various boards and committees they serve on throughout the County.
A few of the highlights: Jerry Simpson chose to serve on MUMPO, the CMC Hospital Board of Directors, and as school board liaison; Jonathan Thomas will serve as Fire Commissioner as well as both on the CMC Hospital executive board and the Community Trustees Council serving CMC, Todd Johnson was appointed to Parks and Recreation and the Library board. Kim Rogers and Tracy Kuehler drew all the lessor known or non-political boards.
Now, this is not unusual considering how the BOCC functions in years past. But it hardly jives with all the hype promoted by a couple of the newly installed Commissioners espousing of a “new tone”, a cooperative attitude among Commissioners.
If the Jays were really interested in a new tone, it would’ve left Kim Rogers as the school board liaison. That’s not to say that Jerry Simpson couldn’t do the job, however Kim Rogers has a long history and knowledge base that is a much greater value to the board.
A Missed Opportunity
What the Jays missed was an opportunity to extend an “Olive Branch”, to really be different from previous boards. To actually surpass the hyperbole — they could have done it! But they didn’t. You have to wonder why — why couldn’t they have made this one small concession which would’ve gone extraordinarily far to disprove the expectations?
There was no carryover of hard feelings from a previous board, no history of bad blood from poor treatment like Pressley or Openshaw. So folks, for all intents and purpose, the East-West divide continues.
Aside from committees, the new majority decided to fire the County Attorney, Keith Merritt, who had served in the position for the last two years. I don’t have an issue with appointing a new attorney, they serve ‘at the will’ of the Board of County Commissioners.
Apparently some board members thinks that position should be served by a Union County-based attorney — keeping the money local. This is not a new argument, but in fact one that has been a definitive difference between boards.
In the year 2010 so far, Union County has spent $541,000 on attorneys fees, including the County Attorney, who billed a total of $137,646 for services rendered. The single biggest legal bills came from Union County’s own and likely successor to Mr. Merritt, Mr. Ligon Bundy who billed the County for a total of $239,579. The remaining fees were paid to law firms based both in and outside of Union County.
To summarize, the first meeting of the new majority did not begin a new era of cooperation, but to be fair, nor did they begin by digging themselves a hole that they will never get out of either.