agree to make up -- sort of
Members of County
Council came together long enough to approve a pair of 'good
government' changes to their rules, but in the process of doing
so left it uncertain whether they will heed Council
president Tom Kovach's invitation to "work together as a Council
and put this behind us."
“It falls on Council members to make that work,” George Smiley
To be sure, the
rules changes approved at an executive committee meeting were
pretty much of the 'motherhood and apple pie' variety and didn't
lend themselves to controversy. But nearly unanimous consent for
putting them into the book was accompanied by some questioning
of the motivation behind bringing them forward.
One, sponsored by
Lisa Diller and approved by an 11-to-one vote, will require that
any future changes to the rules be presented in writing seven
days in advance and included on the posted meeting agenda. If
for some reason that is impractical in a specific instance, it
allows for the proposal to be presented with at least six hours
A previously tabled
change, proposed by David Tackett and approved unanimously,
requires that all legislation brought before Council include in
its title and legislative summary sufficient information to make
clear its content. The rule also requires including in the
summary a reference to any companion legislation and to spell
out changes made to the original version by amendments or
Although the voice
votes were taken with what appeared to be a spirit of
amiability, there nevertheless was underlying
tension during the course of the meeting. Members who engaged in
the discussion, however, were careful to maintain a civil tone
and skirt any personal references.
cast the dissenting vote on the Diller change after telling his
colleagues that he considered it to have been "inspired" by a
controversial resolution he recently sponsored requiring that
all legislation enacted by Council be signed by the president or
president pro-tem within five business days. Calling the change
"a little excessive," he indicated that he felt it cast
aspersion on himself.
Jea Street did not
attend the executive committee meeting on Mar. 8, but it was
clear to observers that his absence was unrelated to the meeting
agenda. A week earlier enough members stayed away from an
executive committee meeting to prevent Kovach from mustering the
seven-member quorum required to transact any business. Like all of
Council's standing committees, the executive committee includes
all 13 members.
Hollins said there
subsequently was "a lot of
false information [disseminated]
about what I did and my intent."
The controversy revolved around
including a resolution eliminating deed restrictions on a
commercial property in Bear that is up for rezoning on Council's
consent agenda. As such, it was enacted without discussion and
some Council members have claimed without their being fully
aware of its content.
Kovach has refused to sign the
enacted resolution on the grounds that doing so could give the
perception of a conflict of interest because his former law firm
represents the rezoning applicant. Hollins has requested an
opinion from the county law department concerning the matter and
so far has refused to sign it in his capacity as president
Council's attorney Carol Dulin
declined to respond in open session to a question about the
legality of the process by which the deed restriction resolution
was enacted because she is in the process of responding to a
Freedom of Information Act protest lodged with the state
attorney general's office.
She also declined to comment on
Hollins's request saying, "If and when an opinion is issued it
will be determined if it should be [publically] released."
Kovach told the committee that
"going forward, I will sign any legislation within five days" in
compliance with Hollins's procedural resolution.
Kovach declined a request by
Hollins that he be designated co-chairman of the executive
committee and preside over some of its sessions. That would
mirror the other standing committees, but Kovach said that "it
is within the purview of the presiding officer [of Council] to
chair an executive committee meeting" and he sees "no reason to
deviate from that."
He added, however, that he would
agree to Hollins occasionally chairing a meeting or part of a
meeting whenever particular circumstances made that appropriate.
After the committee approved
Diller's and Tackett's resolutions, Bill Bell said he "would be
remiss" if he did not include on the record of the meeting a
firm expression of support for Hollins. "Penrose Hollins has
always followed the rules of ethics and credibility," Bell