Rules and Bylaws discusses voting, Sunshine Law and upcoming committee placements

Published 8:11 am Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Rules and Bylaws Committee discussed recent complaints regarding the electronic system commissioners use to cast votes in full commission meetings, in which commissioners complained the system is not properly logging their intended votes.

Mike Hill said he was not a fan of the system, Roll Call Pro, since its inception, and said he has noticed repeated problems with the handheld devices they use for the past few months.

“You cannot see what you are transmitting until it is displayed,” Hill said. “You are voting blind.”

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Hill described scenarios in which he pressed the “Yes” button only for the “Request to Speak” light to turn on.

This kind of complaint has become more apparent in recent weeks, as the most recent Commission vote to begin the process of seeking Planning Director Chris Schuettler’s bonus back was decided on the narrowest possible vote at 13-8. This vote would have failed if Sonja Culler’s vote had registered as No like she said she intended.

“We are letting a glitchy console affect the official record,” Hill said.

Chairman Randall Jenkins questioned why official complaints have just now surfaced if the issue has been present for several months.

Current county policy says the official vote cannot change once the tally is revealed at the end. The committee said this was done in order to prevent commissioners changing their votes in light of how their peers voted.

Hill said this was not a good enough reason to ignore possible improvements.

“There is not ‘Nothing you can do about it,’” he said.

The committee briefly considered doing both a voice vote and the digital vote, but Aaron Frazier said such a move would be a mess.

“We are going to create a logistical nightmare where neither vote can be trusted,” Frazier said.

The committee discussed possibly going back to voice voting until an official solution is found, but commissioners such as Brad Johnson argued the commission would go back to the same problems it always had.

Jenkins brought forward the possibility of paying a temporarily higher cost for a version of the software that allows for a smartphone app to be used for voting instead, allowing commissioners to see what they vote registered as and hopefully dodge the clickers altogether.

The final decision rested on Barnett making the call to the company to determine a solution.

County Attorney Josh Hardin also provided up-to-date, easy to reference information about the Sunshine Law in its entirety, roughly two weeks after news got out about a “closed-door” meeting between several County Commissioners, Mayor Russell Barnett, Schuettler and Goodhall.

“Eating lunch is not a meeting,” Hardin said. “Talking to a private developer about a project is not a meeting.”

He went as far as to say if all 24 commissioners gathered in the Mayor’s office, it would not count as a meeting if they did not discuss current or upcoming votes.

The official wording of the law does refer to “two or more elected officials,” but Hardin said strict interpretation of this would disallow commissioners to greet one another in hallways.

“You cannot take the law to its absurdity,” he said.

The committee also discussed recent concerns about county employees serving on the Budget Committee and possible changes in the rules to restrict these kinds of appointments.

While public concerns Acuff said he has heard spoken towards potential conflicts of interest, Patty Woodby, a county employee herself, said that kind of experience is actually beneficial to their jobs.

The committee decided to take the matter to a full commission vote on September 16, the same meeting that will determine the new rosters on each county committee.