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KCC may change public comment rules

Posted: March 18, 2011 4:47 p.m.
Updated: March 21, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Without providing specifics, interim Kershaw County Administrator Frank Broom said he would like to “structure” Kershaw County Council’s public comment period. Broom said he wants to ensure that people who speak during that portion of council meetings have accurate and reasonable concerns and aren’t using the time to accuse council members or staff of wrongdoings.

Broom, who has been on the job for two months following the resignation of Clay Young, offered up that and other policy changes during council’s work session Thursday. He said he made the proposals to “streamline” county operations and council’s meetings.

Broom’s ideas regarding the public comment period comes after a citizen voiced ethics concerns March 8 over Councilman Jimmy Jones voting on a Walter M. Crowe Animal Shelter issue. One of Jones’ relatives oversees the shelter.

Jones said he favors Broom’s recommendation to structure the public comment section.

“I have been set up by this county council,” Jones said. “I have had people on the agenda brought here just to personally attack (me).”

Last month, said Broom, a citizen used the public comment period to speak on behalf of a relative -- a former employee they said had yet to receive their disability check. According to Broom, the paperwork for the employee’s disability had been sent five days before the citizen addressed council.

Broom said the citizen essentially called the administration “incompetent” even though staff had followed proper procedure.

Broom also suggested council scrap an ordinance requiring both the chairman and vice chairman sign official county documents. For example, Broom said, Chairman Gene Wise has been out of the country for nearly two weeks due to business. That has kept an intergovernmental agreement council has already approved from being officially enacted.

“It’s slowing things down,” Broom said of the current policy.

Council, with Wise absent, appeared to agree with Broom’s recommendations. Per state law, however, no official action can be taken at council work sessions.

In other business Thursday:

• Broom asked council to consider whether to make all county buildings and offices tobacco-free. Only Jones spoke definitively on the issue, saying he supports tobacco-free facilities. Broom mentioned the only building council doesn’t have the authority over is the Kershaw County Courthouse. The decision to ban smoking at the courthouse would be left to Clerk of Court Joyce McDonald.

• Broom asked council to amend a newly enacted vehicle use policy to exclude Coroner Johnny Fellers’ vehicle from a requirement that it be marked and prohibited from moving alcohol or illegal drugs. Broom said that, due to the nature of Fellers’ work, the coroner is often required to transport alcohol and other substances.

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