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KCC mulls KershawHealth appointment policy

Posted: September 2, 2012 3:21 p.m.
Updated: September 3, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Despite not taking any formal vote, Kershaw County Council tried to hash out details Tuesday on making new appointments to the KershawHealth Board of Trustees. During the meeting’s council/administrator briefing period, County Administrator Vic Carpenter presented recommendations for making appointments, but noted council could revise his proposal.

Carpenter suggested applicants come before council during Thursday’s upcoming work session and make a 3- to 5-minute presentation regarding “whatever they wish you to know about themselves.” After each candidate’s introductory statement, he recommended that Council Chairman Gene Wise ask a series of questions submitted by council members prior to the meeting. Applicants would also be provided with a copy of the questions in advance.

Carpenter indicated that candidates would also be sequestered with applicants answering questions one at a time in the conference room at the Kershaw County Government Center. He said proceedings would be open to the media and general public, but would not involve any direct, open dialogue with the public.

Wise agreed with Carpenter’s suggestions, but expressed support towards limiting responses to two minutes per question with a maximum of three questions.

“I think three questions would be sufficient, one about vision, certainly a financial question, and perhaps a general medical question.”

Councilman Bobby Gary noted that he had received a number of emails from applicants stating that they would be unavailable to attend Thursday’s meeting. Gary asked if applicants could respond via letter since the questions would be submitted in advance.

Wise responded favorably to Gary’s concerns, saying he felt candidates shouldn’t be discouraged from serving on any boards and should be allowed to respond via letter.   

Councilman Stephen Smoak said he also wanted to make the process as fair as possible.

After appearing to reach a consensus, Council Vice Chairman Sammie Tucker Jr. suggested formally voting on the proposal to ensure “we’re all on the same page and accept these rules and guidelines.” Councilman Jimmy Jones agreed, but believed council should also vote to set the number of appointments that would actually need to be made.

Jones’ request stemmed from a debate during council’s Aug. 14 meeting during which council members discussed the possibility of letting one member continue to serve despite having a term set to expire. Board terms of four members are set to expire Sept. 30.

“We need to have a consensus about how many appointments we’re going to make. I think the people deserve to know if we’re going to do three or if we’re going to do four. I stand by four,” Jones said.

Smoak had previously suggested that council appoint only three members, noting that over the years, the staggered terms of the nine-member board had gotten “off-kilter” due to past councils allowing trustees to serve beyond the normal 6-year time frame per term. For each 2-year appointment cycle, three members are supposed to have expiring terms. According to state law, no board member shall “succeed himself after serving a full six-year term,” meaning a new appointment needs to be made after a term expires. However, upon the expiration of a term, another individual cannot fill the open position unless a successor is appointed and qualifies for that appointment.

County Attorney Ken DuBose said that if council decides only to fill three slots, one previous appointee would stay on the board and would be considered a holdover until a new appointment was made.

The four trustees with terms set to expire are: Chairman Jody Brazell, Dr. Marguerite Carlton, Carolyn Hampton and Ernest Witherspoon. Each began serving on Oct. 1, 2006.

After council discussed the topic for nearly 15 minutes, Jones expressed his “disgust” that such deliberation would take place despite the item never being placed on the agenda.

“We’re now going to wait until the 11th hour,” Jones said. “This should never have been discussed during council briefings. It should have been an item agenda. It’s of significance and importance to the people of this community and that’s evident by how many people have applied to this position.”

As of Tuesday’s meeting, 16 people had applied to serve on the board of trustees: Clay Carruth, Paul Christenberry, Walter Clark, Vincent Degenhart, Karen Eckford, Roy Fakoury, Barbara James, Karin Jenkins, Dennis Lofe, Dan Lovatt, Linda Franklin-Moore, Paul Napper, Derial Ogburn, Eloise Parker, Don Terrell, and Jim Watts. Candidates have until Sept. 5 to apply for the position.

Following Jones’ comments, Smoak asked county staff to place the item on the agenda for Thursday’s work session in order to “be discussed prior to when the candidates come for their vetting process.”

Wise agreed, saying “consistent with our rules of county council, any council person can put anything they want on the agenda at any given time. Mr. Smoak has made that request and Mr. Jones has made that request so we will proceed with that.” He also suggested council be prepared to make the appointments during council’s meeting Sept. 11.

Thursday’s work session begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Kershaw County Government Center, located on Walnut Street in Camden.

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