Mayor mulling veto of board notice motion

Published 7:56 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mayor Les Bumgarner Tuesday threatened to veto a new rule thatwould require aldermen to be given advance notice on certainmatters facing the city’s board of adjustments.

Bumgarner said he will look closely and consider situationssurrounding one alderman’s insistence that the Brookhaven Board ofAdjustments, which deals with zoning and variance exceptions, givealdermen early word on controversial issues and decisions facingthem.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell made a motion, which passed 4-3Tuesday night, that the board of aldermen be informed when theboard of adjustments is facing an issue that needs a specialexception. Bumgarner pointed out that can end up being everymeeting.

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Maxwell was angry, saying he felt he was left out of the loop onthe moves and meetings of the board of adjustments, and that theyshould be required to keep him better informed.

Maxwell said he should not have to read announcements printed inthe newspaper, nor should he have to call board members to find outthe issues brought up in the board of adjustments meetings, thatthe information should be sent to him instead.

“Are you trying to make me read The DAILY LEADER?” he asked whenother city officials pointed out that the meetings are run in thelegal notices section of the paper.

Maxwell went on to detail to the board that he believes aldermenhave the right to be common citizens when an issue brought to theboard of adjustments is important to them. In exchange for beingable to speak to adjustments as just city residents, they give uptheir vote in the board meeting when it comes before the board ofaldermen.

Bumgarner said the problem would lie in the fact that board ofadjustments members might feel influenced by the presence ofaldermen at the meetings.

“What’s the point of being so informed if you’re not going to tryto manipulate the process?” he asked Maxwell. “I can’t imagine yougoing to the meetings and not wanting to interfere.”

Bumgarner went on to point out that aldermen get a copy of theminutes of hearings and meetings from the board of adjustmentsafter the fact.

“To appoint these boards and make them independent and then try tointerfere or micromanage them is counterproductive,” he said. “Theyhave the right to make a decision and we have the right here tocorrect it. These boards will look at you differently than acitizen, and it’s not fair to them.”

Ward Six Alderman David Phillips pointed out that during his timeon the board of adjustments, he did receive at least one phone callfrom an alderman he didn’t name, asking him to vote a certainway.

“It adds a political part to it that shouldn’t be there,” he said.”We didn’t have people calling up and telling us what to do. Wait.I did have that happen once.”

Maxwell kept hammering home the point that he felt he should bewell aware of when the board of adjustments is facing issues thathe needs the details on.

“I’m tired of things coming before the board when I could have hadthe information well head of time to make decisions,” he saidangrily. “I don’t care if this passes or not, I want theinformation.”

Other aldermen maintained that the board of adjustments should havesome autonomy, since their decisions, if appealed, come to theboard of aldermen.

“I’m comfortable with being informed, but not if it encourages usto attend the meetings,” said Ward Four Alderman ShirleyEstes.

Bumgarner said that in other cities, the city attorney attends allthe city’s board meetings, no matter what the board.

“If it’ll cut through all this crap, you’re darn right I’ll go,”said City Attorney Joe Fernald.

The motion to require advance information from the board ofadjustments passed 4-3, with Phillips, Estes, and Alderman At LargeKaren Sullivan voting against it.

“How long do I have to veto this?” Bumgarner asked. “I’m not goingto veto this now, I want to think about it.”

Bumgarner said a large part of his consideration of the veto camefrom a situation where an aldermen he did not name was displeasedwith a decision made by a member of a city-appointed board.

“Someone on this board said to me, ‘I’m going to fire them,'” hesaid. “We don’t put people on boards to fire them when they make adecision we don’t like.”

Maxwell told the mayor he felt the board “deserves” to know aboutthe movements of the board of adjustments ahead of time.

“I understand, and I’m going to veto,” the mayor said.

Bumgarner has 10 days to decide whether to veto the boardaction.