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Wednesday, 10 December 2008 14:33

Commissioners make extra meetings official

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The Macon County commissioners on Monday voted to start having two regularly scheduled meetings a month, rather than just one — a move that follows a Smoky Mountain News article that criticized the board’s meeting practices.

Macon County Commissioner Brian McClellan said the idea to have two meetings a month is something that has been discussed for some time, but thinks the news article brought the issue to the forefront.

Commission Chairman Ronnie Beale said the reason for adding a new meeting is that there is so much business that it cannot be accomplished in one meeting a month.

The article, “Macon’s irregular meetings keep public guessing,” published in the Nov. 26 edition of the paper.

According to Assistant County Manager Wilma Anderson, the county has not had two regularly scheduled meetings a month since the 1970s.

The meetings will now be on the second Monday at 6 p.m. and the fourth Monday at 2 p.m.

The commissioners voted unanimously for the additional meeting, but McClellan and County Commissioner Bob Simpson said they were concerned that the 2 p.m. time might not be good for the working public.

Commissioner Jim Davis said the 2 p.m. time may be good for senior citizens who don’t want to be out late in the winter months. The new meeting schedule will begin in January.

County Manager Jack Horton said the Smoky Mountain News story had nothing to do with the county going to two meetings a month.

Davis also said the article was not the reason.

“We’ve been talking about this for months,” Davis said.

Two meetings a month are common for most counties of Macon’s size: Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties have all conducted two meetings a month for years.

The news article spotlighted how the Macon County commissioners have a habit of recessing their meetings rather than formally adjourning. It recessed at least 17 meetings in the first 10 months — far more than Jackson County, which has recessed three this year and Haywood County only one.

When a meeting is recessed rather than adjourned, commissioners verbally announce when and where they will reconvene. They are not required to provide formal public notice other than the verbal announcement, making the meetings more difficult for the public and media to keep track of.

North Carolina Press Association Attorney Mike Tadych said the Macon commissioners were not violating the Open Meetings Law by recessing so much but called it a poor practice.

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