by Paul Revere
Pittsboro, NC – In reading the agenda for the June 15 Chatham County Board of Commissioners meeting you couldn’t have known the significant items that were to be approved. Even if you don’t care about these specific items, you should notice how underhanded these new commissioners are. Not only are they cramming most items on the consent agenda, they don’t bother putting important issues on the agenda at all! Hales and Howard are hiding their schemes from us AND other commissioners.
Let’s start with the smaller item. After approving the budget, Karen Howard asked for $30,000 more for the Chatham Arts Council. Walter Petty stated that it was improper to act on the request without a presentation with details about how the money would be used. Howard arrogantly stated “it is acceptable for us to do this at this stage of the game” . Commissioner Mike Cross then said, “It is legally acceptable but I’m not so sure it is acceptable to the public. This is very unusual”
Petty tried to reason with Karen Howard. Adding, “whether it has merit or not is beside the point” . . . “This is not the way you do a budget” . . ..”We make every department justify every dollar we give them. You don’t just write a blank check.” Ignoring reason, the motion passed 3-2 with Karen Howard, Diana Hales and Jim Crawford voting in favor.
Speaking of blank checks, the majority voted to become litigants in a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina. Some clean water organization and three individuals have sued the State. Diana Hales and Karen Howard felt strongly that Chatham should join as a plaintive. Other commissioners were blindsided by this move and tried to get more information. Petty said “Just so I have this right, we would be the only government joining three individuals to sue the state.” Hales proudly said “yes.”
Petty tried to determine what liability the county would have by joining. Hales, demonstrating her vast knowledge of the law, said “as I understand it, it’s just filing a piece of paper and paying $200. The Chatham County attorney jumped in to correct her saying, “Once you get involved in litigation, you are in litigation. You really can’t predict what it will cost you or what the outcome will be. I think you need to be aware of that.”
“I don’t think we should be a part of this. We have no idea what this would cost us,” said Cross. Ignoring all reason and legal advice, Diana Hales, Karen Howard and Jim Crawford voted to join the lawsuit and put the county on the hook for an undetermined amount of money with no input from the public.