Confehr: Quorum needed for City Hall business

Friday, April 29, 2011

With a Lewisburg City Council election just a few days away, a little City Hall humor seems worthwhile, since some folks may be taking it all too seriously about now.

Last week, the city's planning commission was gathering for another monthly session in the upstairs meeting room, and while there was still time for a surprise, albeit late, appearance of one more planning commissioner, the question hung heavy in the air.

Will there be a quorum, or a majority of the commissioners present, so that the meeting could proceed without another delay for a resident who was still trying to get a recommendation for a rezoning of his vacant lot so he could stop paying property taxes based on the commercial assessment instead of the residential rate?

The man received an apology from the chairman of the commission for the delay as the immediate past zoning and codes guru started to make cell-phone calls from the front row of the audience chairs. In short order, the fellow had left a number of voice mails on other cell phones and in-house answering machines. Then the question was about other absent members' cell-phone numbers since their offices were called.

People started going through their cell-phone address books, calling out numbers and more cell-phone calls were made when Chapel Hill's solution to such a predicament was recalled. The north Marshall County town's Board of Zoning Appeals was lacking a quorum one day last winter and two more members were needed for a quorum, and then, two of them were contacted by cell phone. So, the city administrator pressed the speaker-phone button on his phone and placed it on the meeting table. Shortly thereafter, another town official reached another BZA member, placed the phone on the table with the speaker function on, and the meeting proceeded, complete with votes.

It may not be kosher, the mayor said, but we got it done - or something to that effect.

A brief discussion in City Hall here concluded that wouldn't be done in this town, but there was still no quorum.

Time marched on. Someone must have thought about the unwritten rule in colleges and universities that students could leave after only 10 minutes if an instructor was late, but they must wait a full 15 minutes if their teacher for that class was a full professor.

Then a cell phone rang in the pocket of the fellow on the front row of chairs. He fumbled briefly to get the phone out of a pocket and flip it open in his hand, pressing the answer button along the way.

He answered: Hello?

It seemed clear that one of the voice mails was being answered.

You're still needed and even if someone else is going to come, please come anyway.

The chairman was relieved. High drama averted.

Then there was an explanation about the planning commissioner's tardiness.

She's been gardening in the back yard and she's changing her clothes.

No word on what the Neighborhood Watch was reporting by way of the telephone tree.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.