After voting Monday to suspend night meetings until October, Clay County supervisors voted Thursday to go ahead and hold one night meeting a month for the next four months.
In January, District 4 Supervisor Shelton Deanes made a motion to hold one regular meeting in the spring and one in the fall during the afternoon this year. That way, he said, people who work during the day could attend and watch elected officials conduct county business and have an opportunity to make public comments. The motion failed for lack of a majority.
Two months later, District 5 Supervisor and board president Floyd McKee’s motion to hold 6 p.m. meetings on the last Thursday of the month for five straight months beginning in March passed.
An item regarding night meetings was not on Monday’s agenda. However, during an executive session on an unrelated matter, Deanes made a motion to suspend night meetings until October. The motion passed unanimously.
On Thursday, McKee made a motion to indeed hold night meetings on the last Thursday of each month for the next four months. The motion passed 3-1 with Deanes opposed and Lummus absent.
Before the vote, R.B. Davis referenced an editorial that recently ran in a West Point-based newspaper that was critical of the board’s action Monday. The column described supervisors as “incompetent” and stated that supervisors “held an illegal vote.”
“We are all subject to make mistakes,” Davis said. “Anyone is. But intentionally, we haven’t made any mistakes that we’re aware of. We welcome any constructive criticism that may come from any constituents or press, as long as it’s constructive, but to say that we’re doing something illegal and just kind of ram us down the road, I didn’t appreciate that.”
Board attorney Bob Marshall said he reviewed open meetings law and contacted the state assistant attorney general to verify that nothing illegal took place.
“The article says for those unaware, open meetings laws require all matters of consideration called for a vote to be written in the board business agenda, which must be amended to include any additional topics requiring a vote not covered in the original draft and approved at the beginning of the meeting prior to any open forum discussions,” Marshall said. “The board can discuss and act on any topic, whether it’s on the written agenda or not. I’ve asked (Daily Times Leader) to show me where their authority is to make that statement of the law….As of yet I have not gotten a response.”
“When you throw out terms such as ‘illegal,’ ‘incompetent,’ ‘shady’… you have to be cautious when you use those kind of terms, particularly when they’re predicated on a particular understanding of what the law is and then everything else flows from that statement of the law,” Marshall added. “As of right now, I don’t find anything to support that statement.”
After Thursday’s meeting, Deanes did not elaborate on why he voted against night meetings in the past.
The board’s next scheduled meeting is 6 p.m. April 24 at the Clay County Courthouse.
District 1 Supervisor Lynn Horton said requests from constituents for night meetings predated his arrival to the board.
“That’s who we work for,” Horton said. “That’s something they want and that’s something we’re going to do is trying to respect the constituents.”
Oktibbeha County supervisors typically hold one night meeting each month, while Lowndes County supervisors always have 9 a.m. meeting times.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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