Chairman Calls Out Supervisors

Published 3:10 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2013

CUMBERLAND – Although the board of supervisor's review of the code of ethics and standards of conduct during January's annual meeting could have been a commonplace reiteration of board policies and protocol, the discussion was wrought with tension as board members voted to make these documents mandatory and some alleged that other members may not be meeting all of the standards or codes.

During the annual meeting, the board voted unanimously to rephrase the introductory paragraphs of both the standards of conduct and code of ethics to include the replacement of the word “should” with “will” and add a phrase that includes all future board members.

During last year's annual meeting, the wording of the introduction to the code of ethics was changed to “shall,” but not the wording of the standards of conduct.

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When asked by Supervisor Parker Wheeler, District Five, what the difference was between the two words, County Administrator and Attorney Vivian Giles, replied that “'Should' is not mandatory. 'Will' would require mandatory compliance.”

Before moving to change the wording of the standards of conduct to match that of the code of ethics, Supervisor Kevin Ingle, District Three, explained his rational: “Well, I would definitely like to have the standards of conduct changed….And I'm not too sure that the word “shall” is strong enough language at this point in time. If we're setting up a set of standards of conduct and code of ethics, why even have them in here if we're not going to go along with them. I think they ought to be a mandatory set of guidelines…

“It's a worthless document unless you've got the right word in there, the trigger word, to be able to make it an active document.”

Ingle then moved that both the standards of conduct and code of ethics be changed to include “every current and future member of the board of supervisors” and the word “should” changed to “will”.

During the discussion of the standards and codes, Wheeler and newly reelected Chairman David Meinhard, District Four, also voiced nonspecific allegations that some board members were not currently in compliance with the two documents.

Soon after the board began reviewing the wording of the documents, Wheeler said, “I would just like to point out page two, number eleven, to the board.”

When asked by Meinhard if he had anything further to say, Wheeler replied, “No. I think each board member can read that and make their own decision on it.”

Number eleven of the code of ethics to which Wheeler was referring, states that board members will: “Expose through appropriate means and channels, corruption, misconduct, or neglect of duty whenever discovered.”

After the tougher wording of the documents was approved, Meinhard commented: “That puts a lot of pressure on all of us. Because I think we can all think of opportunities in the preceding year where there have been a number of violations of things in those standards of conduct.”

Supervisor Lloyd Banks, District Two, then inquired if the public in attendance at the meeting had a copy of the documents. When he was answered in the negative, he handed out a copy that was passed around the courtroom. Meinhard offered that others could contact Giles for a copy.

A copy is also available on the Board of Supervisors section of the Cumberland County website:

Meinhard continued his comments; “Out of curiosity, I would like to ask our current board members if we all are in compliance with the code of ethics and standards of conduct?”

After twenty seconds of awkward silence, Meinhard said he would speak for himself, “I am in compliance with the standards of conduct and code of ethics. Anyone else can speak for themselves.”

The board then moved on to the next item of business; however, the discussion of ethics and conduct violations was not over. During the board comments, Meinhard raised his concerns once again: “I have been led to believe that there are some definite violations of those standards of conduct and the code of ethics.

“I want to urge any board member who is in any way in violation of any code of ethics or standard of conduct to make sure that whatever corrections are necessary are made prior to the next board meeting… Since we are questioning ethics and morality and things like that, I will ask the question again at that time.”

Although there has been no clarification of the alleged violations, according to item 11 of the standards of conduct, the board is able to discipline members for violations of either document “using, as a final measure of discipline, censure or removal from the position.”