BOC debates public hearing rules and procedures
By Genine Hopkins
Clare County’s Board of Commissioners (BOC) debated the proper procedures on conducting public hearings as they relate to when the motion for the Resolutions should occur. It appears from the minutes from a meeting last year that the BOC was in fact following the correct rules in the past, according to County Equalization Director Kim Halis. The debate occurred at the regular BOC meeting on Weds., June 19, 2013.
At the heart of the discussion was the 10 a.m. Public Hearing to support Resolution #13-12, which imposed the 2013 Summer Property Tax Levy, pursuant to Public Act (PA) 357 of 2004. Board Chair Jim Gelios, who received a copy of the state legislated rules regarding Public Hearings, informed the board that it was required to make the motion for the resolution prior to opening the Public Hearing; several other board members were adamant that the hearing should take place prior to such a vote.
“It doesn’t make sense that we should approve a resolution before public comment,” said Commissioner Lynn Grim, “We haven’t done this in the past,” supported Commissioner Karen Lipovsky.
It was after debating this issue during the meeting that the regular board meeting was adjourned to have County Administrator Tracy Byard research the protocols and bring Equalization Director Kim Halis into the conversation. Halis had emailed County Clerk Pamela Mayfield regarding the proper procedure, although other board members stated they had not received them.
“We have to make sure we follow the rules as they are written in the state statute,” said Gelios, “We need to resolve this issue and insure we are doing this right.”
Halis presented the members with both the state statute and updated copies of the Resolution’s consequences. After reading aloud the statute, Halis and the board attempted to interpret how this would be handled.
“It appears that you don’t necessarily vote on the Resolution, but must have a motion and support for the Resolution prior to opening the hearing,” Halis indicated, “This would allow the public to understand why the hearing was opened, yet refrain from having the board take its roll call before the public had an opportunity to voice their opinion.”
After reading the regulations, it was agreed by the BOC members that they would indeed have to open the Public Hearing after they had a motion and support for the Resolution.
“It looks like our discussion portion of this Resolution occurs during the hearing,” said Grim.
Although none of the commissioners could recall having followed those steps in previous hearings, Halis read back the minutes from a 2012 meeting that indicated that indeed there had been a motion made prior to the opening of a public hearing.
“This is all very confusing,” said Lipovsky, “I thought we had conducted business in one fashion but apparently we have always done it the right way, so that is very good. Initially when Jim began to ask for a motion, it seemed like we were approving the Resolution prior to the hearing, but it does make sense to begin the discussion during the Public Hearing portion. It just threw me off a bit.”
In the end Commissioner Rick LaBoda made the motion to adopt Resolution #13-12, which was supported by Commissioner Grim. The Public Hearing portion was open for just under an hour – according to several of the commissioners, they are only required to have these hearings open for a minimum of five minutes.