Mayor cites power over nominations

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The ordinance that states the mayor has the authority tonominate members to the Brookhaven Planning Commission has been inplace for years.

However, it became a sticking point when Mayor Les Bumgarnertook office, who dug up the ordinance and found that things havenot been done quite right over recent years. The recent practicehas been that aldermen have been nominating planning commissionmembers, who in turn serve four-year sentences.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Bumgarner presented theordinance as it stands to the board. He asked for a motion torevert to the way the appointments are supposed to be made, ratherthan the incorrect way the board has been following for years.

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Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell, who has long been vocal inmatters concerning the planning commission, wanted to discuss theissue. After a motion and a second were on the floor to uphold theordinance, Maxwell began discussing ordinances concerning the boardof adjustments and the planning commission.

Bumgarner had to remind him the board was only discussing theplanning commission a few times.

“If you’ll be quiet and let me finish…” Maxwell began.

“Don’t tell me to be quiet,” Bumgarner said as he rapped hisgavel to cut Maxwell off.

The mayor then called for the vote. It passed 4-1, with WardThree Alderman Mary Wilson and Ward Two Alderman Terry Batesabsent, and the board moved on to other discussions.

Discussing the board issue further Wednesday morning, Bumgarnersaid Maxwell has been working to change the format for the planningcommission for several years.

“He basically wants to change it or put it off, and I felt likewe’d put it off long enough,” Bumgarner said about the nominationordinance issue. “I was tired of inaction. I felt like after twoyears we needed to make a decision. Wise decisions are made afterreflection, and we’ve reflected long enough.”

Also Wednesday, Maxwell responded that the issue is complicated,and said he doesn’t believe the mayor should have the power overthe planning commission appointments.

“Somewhere the board had to have amended it, or years back itwas adopted or it came into effect that each alderman made theappointments,” Maxwell said. “It’s a complicated issue. The mayortook the position, ‘I want to make these appointments.’ He and Ihaven’t had very good terms over this.”

Maxwell agreed that if the standing ordinance is the one inplace, it should be followed, but he said it needs to be looked atbecause it is outdated. Maxwell said Bates supports him, althoughhe said he feels other members of the board might not haveconsidered the ramifications of allowing the mayor to nominatecommittee members.

“I think it’s taking the privilege away to represent ourindividual wards, each ward has an appointment to board ofadjustments and planning and so forth,” Maxwell said. “I thinkeveryone else has been complacent and really hasn’t thought aboutthe effects of this.”

Bumgarner has said in the past that he would take suggestionsfrom aldermen on nominations, and that the process wouldn’t changethat much. The nomination is still just a nomination, and it can bevoted down by the board.

“I’m not ready to relinquish any powers of the mayor to thealdermen, and I don’t think they’re ready to relinquish any to me,and they shouldn’t be,” Bumgarner said. “That’s the reason forchecks and balances, that board needs to be neutral. It’s set up soone alderman can’t control the whole thing.”