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Commissioners debate committee assignments

Washington County Committee on Committees members were mum on their proposed list of appointees for 2013-14, but some other commissioners had plenty to say during last week’s meeting of the full commission.
Consideration of assignments to the five-member standing committees led to questions about the method used for the recommendations and how the Committee on Committees was able to approve 50 appointments in a matter of minutes.
Commissioners Mark Ferguson, Doyle Cloyd, Sam Humphreys, Richard Matherly and Gerald Sparks were elected in July to determine appointments to the 10 standing committees based on preferences commissioners were asked to submit.
Ferguson, acting as chairman despite no official election, came to the Aug. 19 committee meeting with the appointments in-hand. Having reviewed commissioners’ requests and chosen the assignments himself, he made a motion for the list to be approved as presented.
The motion, seconded by Richard Matherly, passed unanimously with no comments or questions from committee members.
The process didn’t run quite so smoothly during the Aug. 26 meeting of the full commission.
The list was included in the meeting packet, and Ferguson again made a motion for approval as presented. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Sam Phillips.
Commissioner Mitch Meredith said he attended the Committee on Committees meeting where Ferguson said several commissioners did not submit committee preferences.
In talking with others, he found some requests were turned in late.
“I want the record to show I turned in a list,” Commissioner Mike Ford said, noting it might have been past the deadline.
Meredith proposed an amendment to the recommended slate in an effort to break up the controlling interest of a small group of commissioners, and spread the ability for input on recommendations to the full board among more members.
The amendment included the following changes to Ferguson’s proposed appointments — Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee: Commissioner Alpha Bridger be replaced by Commissioner Ken Lyon; County-Owned Property Committee: Cloyd be replaced by Commissioner Lee Chase; Public Works Committee: Cloyd be replaced by Sparks, and Ferguson be replaced by George “Skip” Oldham; Legal Services Committee: Commissioner Steve Light be replaced by Commissioner Pat Wolfe, and Bridger be replaced by Commissioner Mark Larkey.
“Do you not want me to be on any committees?” Bridger asked Meredith.
Commissioner Pete Speropulos seconded Meredith’s amendment. “I have the list (of requests from commissioners), and I couldn’t help but notice that very few got what they wanted while others got everything,” he said.
Commissioner Phyllis Corso referred to the hours Ferguson spent compiling the requests and assigning the committees. “We can juggle his list ‘til the cows come home, but I’ve not heard a compelling reason to make any changes,” she said.
The fact that Ferguson drafted the assignments with no input was reason enough for Speropulos. “It’s a committee, not (just) Ferguson,” he said. “The report shows a 6-minute meeting. We’ve spent more than that on the amendment.”
Speropulos said county residents elected all commissioners to serve. “We are each a leader, and when we start falling behind one individual and letting him make our decisions, that’s wrong,” he said.
Commissioner Steve Light took offense and said no one makes decisions for him.
Corso said she wasn’t questioning motives. “If the committee (approved), it’s because they agreed with the list, and there is no reason to change it.”
Meredith had a different impression. “I was at the meeting. It lasted 6 minutes, and there were no comments or questions,” he said, speculating on how that would be possible. “It’s either an amazing coincidence that five people agreed on 50 appointments, somebody is psychic, or there was a conversation beforehand.
“For those commissioners who voted (in favor of) the budget amendment and the Committee on Committees, it was a slam dunk,” he said, referring to Ferguson’s failed motion to defer action on $1.4 million of capital projects and the election of the same committee members for the fourth consecutive year.
Ferguson and fellow Committee on Committees members remained silent, offering no explanation or justification for their recommendations.
Cloyd called for the question, and the amendment failed 9-to-15 with Larkey absent. The following commissioners opposed Meredith’s changes: Chair Greg Matherly, Cloyd, Humphreys, Joe Sheffield, Bridger, Phillips, Corso, Richard Matherly, Ferguson, Sparks, Ford, Roger Nave, Ben Bowman, Light and David Shanks.
A vote on the original list of appointments then passed 14-10. The only vote that prevented an exact reversal of the amendment tally was cast by Ford, who opposed both lists. Others opposed to Ferguson’s list were Speropulos, Oldham, Meredith, Chase, Tomita, Flynn, Lyon, Grandy and Wolfe.