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July 26, 2006

DEPUTY REQUESTED TO ATTEND BOC MEETING MONDAY NIGHT TO “PROTECT” CHAIRMAN BERNARD FROM CITIZENS

A Sheriff’s deputy was present during the BOC meeting on Monday night (7/24/06).

At the last BOC meeting (7/10/06), Chairman Bernard demanded that a deputy be present at all future meetings to keep citizens from commenting during the meeting. This move is ironic because Mr. Bernard was quite vocal during several BOC meetings while he was running for a commission seat and for the 5 month after being elected but before being sworn in.

Now Chairman, Mr. Bernard is progressively making the BOC meetings more and more citizen unfriendly, even downright hostile. He routinely cuts off citizens during both agenda and general comments when he doesn’t like what they say. He also refuses to answer direct questions from citizens, but instead states that they will have to take up the question or problem with the County Manager. He gives little attention to those that do speak by looking around the room, shuffling papers, and even passing notes to other commissioners.

Chairman Bernard has earned his title of “King Jack”. The BOC meetings are about him, his ideas, and his requests. He campaigned for open government and promised citizen involvement, including “town hall meetings.” No one can remember any town hall meetings being held by Comm. Bernard.

At the 7/10/06 BOC meeting Chairman Bernard stated that he and Greg Williams had gone over the minutes to several meetings. He then directed Williams to tell the rest of the Commissioners what they discussed. When Comm. Pennamon brought up the fact that the BOC requested Williams to put certain things in the minutes and asked how it was that the Chairman and the County Manager decided what would be in the minutes instead, Comm. Bernard said he and the County Manager hadn’t discussed it. (The TWG chairman went back and listened to the tape to make sure this is what happened and who said what.) During the minutes discussion, which lasted almost 30 minutes, a citizen made a comment to correct what was said. The gavel was banged several times and everyone was threatened with removal if they commented. (King Jack doesn’t want anyone questioning his power or his comments.)

Later in the meeting during the discussion of the new Zoning ordinance --which will require any new house built in R215 and R140 districts to be 1800 sq ft (not just new lots, but any existing lot will be affected), Chris Anderson (Zoning director) was asked who directed him to come up with this ordinance. Mr. Anderson replied that the BOC did. Comm. Pennamon stated he wanted to see the minutes that showed when Mr. Anderson was directed to do so. Comm. Bernard called for a 5 minute recess. During the recess, Comm. Bernard took Chris Anderson aside and talked with him. Comm. Bernard had been tripped up again, and Mr. Anderson was going to take the fall for him this time. Any citizen attending the meeting knew something was up, but everyone had to wait until the end of the meeting to find out exactly what.

During the next item on the agenda (Part time employee for Animal Control) another citizen commented and Chairman Bernard became angry. He banged his gavel and the citizen said she was leaving. He then banged the gavel continuously until the citizen was out the door and demanded the County Manager have a deputy present at every future meeting the BOC had. Is the deputy to be there to protect him or to do his job of controlling the meeting? It certainly seemed as if Comm. Bernard was taking his frustration out on the citizens after being caught in conflicting statements on 2 occasions.

At the end of the 7/10/06 meeting, Mr. Anderson told the BOC that he has misspoke. That the BOC didn’t ask him to develop the ordinance, but that Comm. Bernard had come to one of the P&Z meetings—"as a private citizen”—and suggested this ordinance. TWG questions how the Chairman of the BOC can go to a department meeting (P&Z) and say he’s a private citizen and ask that something be done. It’s rather difficult to turn down a request from your boss, who signs your check, isn’t it? Comm. Pennamon laughed that Comm. Bernard deemed himself a private citizen in that instance.

The TWG encourages the other BOC members to reign in Chairman Bernard. He is not elected county-wide. He is elected by voters in his district only. He is then elected Chair by the other BOC members and basically serves at the pleasure of the majority of the Board. He is one of five equal members. Chairman Bernard has built up his authority and power in his own mind and is acting inconsistently with his own previous positions and statements.

The BOC members need to tone down the Chairman or else elect someone who can conduct a meeting and show respect to citizens and their ideas and comments. It seems to us that the citizens are much better prepared on many of the topics than the commissioners are. Citizen’s comments have provided some insight to the commissioners and County Manager.

Oh, and the deputy? He protected the Chairman from 2 elderly gentlemen at the last meeting. We sure hope Comm. Bernard felt safe. We doubt he’ll feel that way when election time comes again.

TWG
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