During meetings of two committees of the Columbia County Commission last week, numerous motions were approved as no-debate items for the upcoming commission meeting, even though the committees lacked a quorum.
Committees that debate county business prior to full commission approval are comprised of two commissioners plus chairman Ron Cross. At least two commissioners must be present to constitute a quorum.
Typically, numerous items considered in those meetings are placed on the commission's consent agenda, meaning the full commission later passes or fails all the items with no debate and a single vote.
Tuesday, Commissioner Ron Thigpen was the only member at the Management and Financial Services Committee meeting.
The same was true of the Community and Leisure Services Committee meeting, also held Tuesday, when the only committee member present was Commissioner Trey Allen.
Cross and Commissioner Scott Dean, members of both committees, were absent.
In both committee meetings, Thigpen and Allen forwarded items to the consent agenda.
In Thigpen's meeting, Trey Allen and Commissioner Charles Allen were present. Charles Allen also was present for the Community and Leisure Services Committee meeting.
County Attorney Doug Batchelor, who also didn't attend the committee meetings, saidTrey Allen and Charles Allen attended those meetings as guests, not as substitutes for absent committee members.
A quorum is not needed to move items onto the consent agenda, Batchelor said. Commissioners can review non-debate items prior to the meeting, and any commissioner may move an item off the consent agenda and debate it during the meeting.
At the opening of the Nov. 3 Commission meeting, however, Cross explained that items on the consent agenda already had been approved by a majority of commissioners.
"These are topics that have gone to a public committee meeting, of which three commissioners are members," Cross said. "If three commissioners on that committee vote to approve it, it's passed on to the full board as a consent item. ...
"And if you had three members already voting for it, then you have a majority and there's no reason to debate it unless a commissioner desires to pull it off of consent and put it on the debate agenda," Cross said.
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