The Dec. 13 Elbert County Board of County Commissioners meeting got off to a contentious start when a citizen stood to protest rules of order during the consent agenda portion of the meeting, which resulted in Commissioner Chris Richardson asking her to sit down several times, as she was not a recognized speaker, before slamming his gavel on the bench and declaring the meeting was in recess just minutes after it had begun.
Resident Candace Head-Dylla was trying to oppose the BOCC’s planned revocation of the county’s complaint and commendation policy, stating they were revoking the policy because she and other concerned citizens had recently used the process to complain about the BOCC’s dealings with Spring Valley Ranch developer Jim Marshall.
“I called a point of order, which technically I’m not allowed to do,” said Head-Dylla. “I do appreciate his concern with that. However, since we had brought our concerns to them via email and they ignored us, we saw no other way to get them to respond to that procedural violation.”
Attendees sat in silence as the commissioners left the room for nearly 10 minutes, then returned to address the room regarding Robert’s Rules of Order, before unanimously voting to revoke the policy.
“Public meetings only work if everyone if following the rules of a public meeting,” said Richardson. “There is a portion of this meeting for public comment. Robert’s Rules of Order apply to the parties of the meeting, and points of contention can only be brought by those sitting on this side of the table.”
The complaint and commendation policy was adopted in 2015, and according to Richardson has only been used once during his time in office, and the current policy could be in violation of employment law regulations.
“The two major concerns with the policy was it doesn’t allow anonymous complaints, which can set up concerns regarding retribution, and it required that a report of corrective (disciplinary) action be returned to the person making the complaint and this violates statute as it relates to employment law.”
Richardson said the county receives a lot of feedback from county residents, both positive and negative, through phone calls, email and the postal service, which are addressed without ever having to use the official process.
According to Head-Dylla, the county has not been responsive to numerous complaints and concerns it has received from her and other citizens regarding road developments, and she felt the best way to get officials to respond was to utilize the existing process.
“We filed a complaint, but we have been ignored as we press them to find out why they are not enforcing their current contract with Mr. Marshall to build the roads he’s under contract to build,” said Head-Dylla. “We could find no way to bring this forward to them other than the complaint and commendation policy. They just decided to get rid of it, which is fine, but where is the citizens’ grievance policy so we can bring issues of concern to you?”
The second resolution passed by the BOCC was revoking a 1963 resolution abandoning county roads. The original resolution 63-15 asserts “the present road system on this date is adequate for County needs … no need for any further section, township and range line County Roads other than those which now presently maintained.”
“Regarding the roads, the population was half or less than it is now,” said Commissioner Grant Thayer. “The idea that we would need more roads, our 2008 plan included a significant number of roads that haven’t been built yet. We need to get our resolutions compatible with all the information we have.”
While Head-Dylla believes the revocation of the resolution is in response to the current conflict with the Spring Valley Ranch development and a proposed amendment to the development guide agreement, Richardson said the 1963 resolution came to light during a previous lawsuit regarding the Development Guide Agreement (3) with Spring Valley Ranch, but had no bearing on the outcome.
“The resolution stated flatly that the county had an adequate road network and there was no anticipated future need for additional road capacity,” said Richardson. “Clearly that isn’t true, nor was it true then. My understanding from those that were around at that time was that several ranchers out east were making demands that new roads be built that would have truly been for their individual benefit vs. the county population as a whole, and this resolution took away any basis to claim the county was REQUIRED to build out all the section lines as roads. However, since we have obviously built new roads, or caused new roads to be built, this was simply an artifact that needed to be removed.”
Richardson said the county does not obtain any right to property or right-of-way by revoking the resolutions, and that the abandonment of any property right from 1963 remains.
“What is gone is a statement that no additional rods will ever be needed,” said Richardson.
The resolutions revoked can be found on the county website at https://elbertcoco.civicclerk.com/Web/Player.aspx?id=227.