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Halifax County supes meet again to settle chairman vote

SoVaNow.com / January 16, 2020
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors will meet in special called session next week to settle their first controversy of the new year — who won the Jan. 6 vote for board chairman.

County Administrator Scott Simpson issued notice yesterday of the meeting, which will take place Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. at the Bethune Complex public meeting room in Halifax. Only one item is on the agenda: “the clarification, discussion, action, and resolution related to the offices of Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Board of Supervisors,” Simpson wrote.

A week ago at the board’s annual organizational meeting, supervisors appeared to elect ED-3 representative Hubert Pannell as board chairman for 2020. In two-step voting, Pannell received the support of five members, while the other nominee, William Bryant Claiborne of ED-8, got three votes from the eight-member board.

However, supervisors voted first on Claiborne’s nomination, which resulted in a 3-0 tally. Supporters of Pannell did not raise their hands to vote against Claiborne, effectively abstaining.

Voting for Pannell followed next, resulting in a 5-0 vote and a declaration by Simpson that Pannell was the new board chairman.

ED-7 supervisor Garland Ricketts was then elected as vice chairman, again with a show of hands by five members.

The outcome has since been challenged by ED-6 supervisor Stanley Brandon, who voted with Claiborne and ED-4 member Ronnie Duffey in favor of Claiborne’s nomination. Brandon contends that the first 3-0 vote for Claiborne comprised a board majority, thus settling the chairman’s race without need for further voting.

Simpson, in a memorandum emailed to board members three days later, wrote that members who didn’t openly signal their opposition to Claiborne’s nomination did in fact abstain on the matter. “It was not a ‘nay’ vote, so I would consider that as either a non-vote or an abstention,” stated Simpson.

Simpson said he continued the chairman vote after Claiborne failed to garner support from a majority of board members, prompting the next round of balloting for Pannell. But that decision is now in question, and supervisors will try next Wednesday to sort out the dispute.

Brandon, for one, said he does not accept that Pannell should preside over the meeting as board chairman.

“I want an answer. It’s not about Bryant, it’s not about Hubert. It’s about proper procedure and what the vote yielded,” he said Tuesday.

Brandon said that under Robert’s Rules of Order, the parliamentary procedure that the board uses to conduct its meetings, the election of Claiborne on a 3-0 vote is valid — because Claiborne received a majority — and supervisors should abide by the rules they set.

“[Robert’s Rules of Order] clearly describes who won the majority of the vote, and that candidate who receives a majority of the vote is declared the winner and all other nominations do not hold up to valid consideration,” Brandon said. “You can’t supersede unanimous approval.

“With that being said, why is it that we cannot get a declaration on who the appropriate chairman of the board is, and we get a recommendation on how to chase our tail?”

Brandon said supporters of Claiborne have been put in the position of appealing the outcome of the chairmanship vote with Pannell serving as board chair.

“We can’t meet. If we meet, who’s the chairman? We’ve got to fix that,” he said.

In his memorandum to supervisors, Simpson explained that Brandon, who first brought the dispute to the county administrator’s attention the morning after the Monday night vote, had raised a point of order on the vote. But Brandon said that characterization by Simpson in the memo is inaccurate.

“You have to be careful when using that language because a point of order is traditionally raised to the chair. I have no intention of raising a point of order to someone who isn’t even the chair.

“There is no legitimate solution in that recommendation because it’s far-fetched,” Brandon said.

Under the guidance developed in consultation with County Attorney Jeremy Carroll, Simpson suggested that Pannell, as chairman, could rule in three ways: dismiss Brandon’s point of order as not timely; grant the point of order and relinquish the position to Claiborne; or call for a new vote by the board.

“Ultimately, whether by point of order or appeal, any question concerning the outcome of the election of the Chairman at the organizational meeting must be resolved by the full Board,” Simpson wrote.

Brandon suggested another solution: “If the county administrator conducted the election and missed the appropriate procedure as a result, it’s an easy fix to notify the whole board. If he [Simpson] had the authority to conduct the vote, why doesn’t he have the authority to fix it?”

The Jan. 22 meeting is open to the public.



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