Some Board of Elections and Registration members are divided about whether the board has a valid vice chairman.
Gloria Watson, appointee from West Point, was chosen as vice chairman in January 2013. Her term on the board ended at the end of the year, and West Point City Council did not appoint a replacement within the allotted time frame, so the duty was passed to the County Commission to appoint the seat. Commissioners voted to re-appoint Watson to the spot in February.
That gap caused some members to question whether Watson, who has not yet been sworn in for her second term, was eligible to stay vice chairman. At Thursday’s BOER meeting, during an unrelated report by Elections Supervisor Andy Harper, board member J.C. Cameron brought the vice chairman issue up with chairman Jane McCoy.
“We need to verify, verify for the minutes, who is the vice chairman,” Cameron said. “We don’t have it on the minutes … I’m asking a question, do we need to vote?”
“This is beyond the scope of the election supervisor’s report, you can certainly put this on as an item for discussion at the next meeting,” McCoy said.”Because we’re talking about the election report right now.”
“I know, but we have ignored this every time, now look-” Cameron began.
“This is something that needs to be put on the agenda for the next meeting,” McCoy said.
“Well, you as chairman, you need to correct this problem, OK …” Cameron said.
“OK, that is duly noted and we’re going to put that on the agenda for the next meeting,” McCoy said.
“I need you to take care of – we need a vice chairman,” Cameron said. “We need a vice chairman on the minutes.”
“Miss Watson is the vice chairman,” McCoy said.
“Show me what minutes you have that on,” Cameron said.
“She was elected in January (2013),” McCoy said.
“… We want to be legal, you know,” Cameron said, as McCoy continually said that the board would discuss the matter at the next meeting.
Board members Ellen Gilmore and Lonnie Hollis also said after the meeting that they didn’t believe the board had an official vice chairman.
After the meeting, McCoy pointed to the BOER enabling legislation, SB 520, which states that successors to the initial members appointed “shall serve for terms of three years and until their successors are appointed and qualified.” McCoy said that means board members are still part of the board until their successor takes over, even if their term is expired. So, even though Watson’s term ended in December, she still was a member until her re-appointment.
Harper said he also had asked the Secretary of State about the situation for clarification.
“As per Ardella Bass with the Secretary of State’s office, she (Watson) is in good standing,” Harper said.
The BOER bylaws also state the board chooses officers every odd-numbered year. McCoy noted that means there was no need to vote on a new vice chairman at the beginning of 2014.
“The current vice chair was duly elected in 2013 and the next election under the current bylaws would not be until January 2015,” said County Attorney Mark DeGennaro in an email, following a request from McCoy for clarification. “Even if this were a situation in which no vice chair was elected at the expiration of her term of office, the general rule has long been that offices are not deemed to be vacant and the holders continue to serve until their successors are duly elected and qualified.”
McCoy added: “Accordingly, it is our opinion that the current vice-chair will continue to serve in that office until the BOE&R, as the creator and appointing authority of the office of vice chair through its bylaws, appoints her successor.”