March 25, 2015

County meeting turns testy

By LEE COLEMAN

Not formally on the agenda to speak at last week’s  Mercer County Board of Commissioners meeting, Mercer County Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Dwight Berger asked Commission Chairman Gary Murray for a few minutes to speak at the meeting on a “planning and zoning” issue.
At 11:20 a.m., Murray called Berger up to speak before the next agenda item at 11:30 a.m.
“The planning and zoning issue that I want to bring up is both the county auditor (Shana Brost) and State’s Attorney (Jessica Binder) are supposed to be attending these meetings,” Berger said.
“No,” replied Binder.
“Yes” rebutted Berger.
“No,” retorted Binder.
“It has been common practice, HAVE I GOT THE FLOOR OR NOT?” Berger exclaimed loudly, surprising those in attendance.
“At the present time,” Murray said.
“Ok, then I’d appreciate not being interrupted!” Berger said.
“Ok,” Binder said.
And so it was, an argumentative and negative tone was immediately set and the tension in the county courthouse elevated quickly and could have been cut with a knife.
“The state’s attorney for years, I hauled him to the meetings so he could be there,” Berger said. “Now, all of a sudden, we haven’t had one at a meeting for six months. According to the Century Code, the auditor is required to be the secretary of the planning and zoning board.
“So, I need a formal letter to those two individuals to start attending planning and zoning meetings. I guess if they refuse, and we do have an issue at planning and zoning that we need legal aid, we’ll just have to table it until the next meeting where there is one.”
“Can I respond now?” asked Binder.
“Yes, you can,” answered Murray.
“ Under the law, he is correct, the auditor is assigned to take minutes,” Binder said. “Also under the law, officers can delegate their duties and it has been the practice for years.”
“Wrong,” Berger said from his seat.
“I understand. DO I HAVE THE FLOOR?” Binder fired back.
“It is my understanding Dick Sorensen agreed to take that over because he was there anyway. Then after that, when Shelley went into office, she went initially into meetings because she was familiar with planning and zoning and, when she was there, Dick took the minutes and afterwards, she signed them.”
Binder said Gary Emter began taking minutes when Monte Erhardt was the county auditor.


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