Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell said today (Monday) he does not plan to allow citizens to comment at the Commission meeting tomorrow night on the Tevis Architects report that recommends the county build a new animal shelter.
Daniell said citizens will not be allowed to comment on the report during the citizen comment opportunity at the beginning of the meeting because the item is on the Commission agenda.
Daniell said the decision is consistent with the policy he announced at the Commission meeting on Feb. 7, but it is inconsistent with the comment made by Animal Control Department Head Catlyn Vickers at the meeting of the Animal Control Advisory Board the following night.
Vickers encouraged Advisory Board members and citizens present to attend the meeting tomorrow night to “to voice their opinion” about the Tevis study.
After I posted last (Sunday) night about the Commission meeting and said that citizens “should have an opportunity on Tuesday night to lobby the Board of Commissioners for a new facility,” I got an email from Wendy Jackson, an active volunteer at the Animal Shelter.
Jackson said she had heard that citizens would not be allowed to comment.
In my post, I said that Daniell had “sent mixed signals since he assumed that position in January as to whether he will allow citizen comment if the Board decides to take no action on the Tevis report at what is billed as an agenda setting meeting.”
In an email exchange today, Daniell told me that his position on citizen comment is clear and was stated at the Feb. 7 Board of Commissioners meeting.
“Since the presentation (by Tevis) is not an action item, we do not have citizen comment,” Daniell wrote in response to my question. “The Commission will hear the presentation and ask questions of the consultant.”
In response, I asked if citizens could make comments about the Tevis report during the Citizen Comment section at the beginning of the meeting.
“Citizen comment section is for items not on the agenda,” Daniell wrote. “The agenda will typical indicate discuss and consider if action is planned at the meeting,” he added.
The agenda item says: “Discuss Animal Services Feasibility Study by Tevis Architects.”
I told Daniell I didn’t think this distinction between a discuss item and an action item was “discernible to someone reading the agenda” and was in conflict with what Vickers had said on Feb. 8.
“Not sure how else to explain,” Daniell wrote back. “That is why I reviewed our procedure at the 02/07/2017 meeting.”
Feb. 7 Explanation
At that meeting on Feb. 7, Daniell said he wanted to clear up confusion from the previous month, when he did not allow citizen comment on an item on the agenda.
He said citizens could comment during the citizen comment section of a meeting “on anything that is not on the agenda.”
During “work sessions,” Daniell said, “typically there is no discussion on those items unless it’s going on the consent agenda.”
The county holds three types of meetings: regular sessions, work sessions, where action is rarely taken and the commissioners talk among themselves and with staff informally, and agenda-setting sessions.
Agenda Setting Meetings
Though Daniell used the term “work sessions” on Feb. 7, the comment about consent agenda indicates that he intended to include in that category agenda setting meetings, which are held on the last Tuesday of the month and are used to prepare the agenda for the regular meeting, held on the first Tuesday of the following month.
The Commission sometimes takes official action at the agenda setting meeting, and items put on the consent agenda during agenda setting meetings are not discussed at the regular meeting unless a commissioner asks to take them off that consent agenda.
Daniell said the gap between the agenda setting meeting and the regular meeting “gives everybody one week to digest what was talked about, to lobby their commissioners for something they want.”
Items for action at the regular meeting will be open for public comment, Daniell said.
Video Clip Of Comments
Daniell wrote to me today that he is using “the same procedure as before,” but former Commission Chair Melvin Davis was not consistent in making the distinctions Daniell articulated between action and discussion items.
Vickers comments to the Animal Control Advisory Board suggests that she did not understand the distinction or did not know if the item would be only for discussion or for discussion and action.
The actual agenda was not released until Friday morning.
“I would encourage the Animal Control Advisory Board members to be at that meeting,” she said, referring to tomorrow night’s session, “to be able to voice their opinion, as well as the public to be there.”
The video below is of Daniell’s comments on Feb. 7.