We've spent some time recently fretting about folks potentially not getting along on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education. We have no similar worries about the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners; we already know how dysfunctional that group is.
Your latest example is Item 8a on Wednesday night's meeting agenda, courtesy of commissioner Vilma Leake: "Seek clarity from Chairman (Harold) Cogdell regarding procedure and effective date for seating of commissioners around the dais at the meetings held in the meeting chamber."
Leake is unhappy at her new seating assignment, which is one of the seats at the far edge of the dais. That assignment came from Cogdell, who gets to make those calls now that he's the board chair. Leake complained about the seat back in Demember, but nothing changed, so she's back at it again, this time more formally.
If Leake wanted to know about procedure, however, she could've simply contacted county attorney Marvin Bethune, as we did this morning. Bethune's response, via email:
The only Board policy on seating arrangements is the attached 1979 policy, which reads: “There shall be adequate seating arrangements for the Board, staff, public, and media at all regular and/or special meetings of the Board.Bethune and others say that as long as they can remember, the practice has been for the chair to determine where commissioners sit.
Leake also could've spoken with Cogdell if she wanted to know why he did what he did, but she clearly wants her complaint aired in public, not private. The board has protocol designed to limit silliness like this - specifically, a rule that requires any agenda item to be co-sponsored by two board members. In this case, that's former chair Jennifer Roberts and George Dunlap, who each should've known better than to allow this to move forward.
We haven't heard back from Roberts, who may still be smarting from Cogdell's unseemly unseating of her as chair. Dunlap, in a note to fellow commissioners today, said that Leake was upset at a remark Cogdell apparently made to media about no one wanting to sit near Leake.
Dunlap hadn't heard that remark, and neither have we.
Cogdell tells us this morning that he doesn't remember saying that "no one" wanted to sit next to Leake, but he said that the Republican members of the board requested to be placed elsewhere. Cogdell also says he remembers Dunlap telling him more than once that he didn't want to be beside Leake "because he would have to explain everything to her and that she talks during the entire meeting."
Cogdell says, and Dunlap agrees, that the board's time is better spent addressing other issues. But, says Dunlap of Leake: "Let her have her say and move on."
Leake already had that say at December's meeting. Wednesday's agenda item is nothing more than pettiness and preening, and it affirms once again that the board - at least three members, anyway - don't mind giving foolishness a prime spot on the dais.
Peter St. Onge