I had mentally packed Penny Rich away in mothballs after she took the county commissioner job, figuring I’d have to find new material for drama. But she hasn’t been gone even a month when here she is turning up like a bad –
No, she’s heard all those jokes since grade school. Let me take a moment to grow up and start again.
Here’s what I know:
Del Snow addressed the Orange County commissioners at their Dec. 11 board meeting during the public comment period to urge commissioners to delay implementing the half-cent sales tax for transportation that Chapel Hill-Carrboro voters approved (and, hence, the county, as Chapel Hill-Carrboro voters outnumber voters in the rest of the county). She twice noted that she was chair of Chapel Hill’s planning board, and though she didn’t say she was speaking for the board, that was the implication. Her remarks were limited to why the planning board voted unanimously against the MPO 2040 plan, and she wanted the problems with the plan fixed before the county started collecting money to fund it. Town Council had voted to support the MPO 2040 plan, albeit grudgingly.
On Dec. 29, Rich sent a letter to Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt calling for Snow’s resignation from the planning board. Rich said it was “highly unusual for the Planning Board chair of one governing body to come and speak in front of another governing body unless asked to do so by council.” Rich signed the letter as “Commissioner Penny Rich, Orange County Board of Commissioners,” making it an official government letter and thus a public matter.
Commissioners chair Barry Jacobs said Rich’s letter represents the feelings of one commissioner and that the commissioners have never discussed whether it was appropriate for a town advisory board member to speak at the commissioners meeting. Nor did he advise Snow, when she called him before the meeting to ask for more time as she was speaking for the board, to speak only as a private citizen.
Tallying up the wrongs on both sides, here’s my score:
Snow could have told all planning board members beforehand (instead of afterward) that she was going to speak on their behalf to see whether anyone raised a caution flag.
As the town and county have some “history” (think library money and landfill fees), Snow could have told the mayor her plans to speak in the role of advisory board member; he could have told her how that might muddy ongoing negotiations with county officials.
Rich could have called the mayor to ask him to talk to Snow, if he felt Snow had overstepped her bounds.
Rich could have spoken up at the commissioners’ meeting to say she thought Snow was inappropriate, or she could have talked to Snow privately later. But that wouldn’t have been as much fun as flamboyant outrage and a public demand for Snow’s head.
Methinks Rich is finding Hillsborough a little too quiet.
– Nancy Oates