Town Records Accuracy Called Into Question - TribPapers

Town Records Accuracy Called Into Question

The town records raises questions about how well the Town of Woodfin is keeping records. Photo by Clint Parker.

Woodfin – First, it was aldermen for the first 49 years of the Town of Woodfin’s existence. In 2020, that changed to commissioners. Two years later, now it’s councilmembers. Why so many changes? Do the elected members of Woodfin have an identity crisis?
On Tuesday evening (Aug. 17th), the elected board voted once again to switch their titles. According to Town Manager Shannon Tuch, her reading of the 2020 minutes of the meeting where the “aldermen” became “commissioners” actually changed the board to the “town council” and not “commissioners,” a title the board has been using for the last two years.

However, a February 2020 article entitled “Woodfin votes to end aldermen at meeting” in the Tribune documented the discussion about the change report: “The board voted to end the use of the title of its town officials to something more non-gender specific. From now on, the board’s members will be known as town commissioners, and the board will be known as the board of town commissioners.”

The article went on to state: “The change was the first item under the new business section of the board’s agenda at the Tuesday (Feb. 18, 2020) evening’s regular monthly meeting, where the discussion began with then Alderman Debbie Giezentanner leading off after Woodfin Mayor Jerry VeHaun introduced the agenda item.”

“I like ‘town commissioners,’ personally,” said Giezentanner at the 2020 meeting, who was also pro tem mayor. She then asked the only other female member of the board, Jackie Bryson, what she thought. “I’ve never had a problem being an alderman,” said Bryson. “But I’d go with that.”

“With ‘town commissioners’ ?” asked Giezentanner. Furthering the discussion, a male member of the board said, “Whatever you all want.” Another said, ‘We’ve been called a lot worse.’ Then Alderman Jim Angel said, “Don’t make any difference.”

“Then Alderman Ronnie Lunsford made the motion to change the board members’ titles to town commissioners and the term “mayor pro tem” to “vice mayor.” The motion passed unanimously. ”

The Tribune reached out to both Giezentanner and Bryson and to Lundford to confirm the Tribune’s reporting of the change. Bryson said, “You seem to be correct. I do remember saying I don’t have a problem being an alderman, but whatever.”

Giezentanner and Lunsford also confirmed the Tribune‘s reporting on the meeting.

Asked if she recalled the elected officials’ titles being changed to commissioners, Giezentanner said, “Absolutely, I don’t know how they could have messed that up because we were called aldermen…we decided to be called Woodfin Commissioners.”
Given the information about the Tribune‘s article after the August 2022 meeting about what was discussed and voted on at the February 2020 meeting, along with the confirmation from two prior commissioners who were there and a current commissioner who was there, Tuch said, “Well, this is a confusing one. Regardless of the discussion, this isn’t what made it into the ordinance or the minutes book. Our only records, which include a signed ordinance, show the name changing from Alderman to Town Council. ”

Lunsford told the Tribune that minutes he had from the meeting also showed the same thing that the Tribune reported. “I keep all the meeting minutes and February 18th, 2020, is when we changed that to commissioners. I sent a copy of that to Shannon, and her reply was, “That’s odd. I’ll check into it,’ “said Lunsford. Lunsford confirmed that his minutes read ‘commissioners.’ Asked how Tuch came up with town council, he said, “I have no idea.”

The discrepancy brings up several questions, including if the town’s official record does not match what was discussed and voted on at the meeting, where did the mistake occur and what legal ramifications might it have? 

Asked how the discrepancy might have happened, Mayor Jerry VeHaun said, “I don’t know. I’ve slept since then.” He also didn’t know what legal effect such a discrepancy might have.

This oddity raises a couple of questions, which the Tribune asked Tuch in an email. 

How are the minutes that Lunsford has different from the minutes in the minutes book? “It looks like what councilmember Lunsford shared is the true set of minutes. I wouldn’t call what I had (attached to this email) meeting minutes but it is what I found in our records included with the signed ordinance,” she said.

She was also asked who transfers the minutes? “The clerk is responsible for taking and archiving all meeting minutes, along with the ordinances, resolutions, and other official records. This set of documents pre-dates our current clerk so we’re unclear why there is a discrepancy.”

Asked How might such a discrepancy affect the legality of the change back in 2020, Tuch said, “The signed ordinance is the ruling document, which is why we felt that we should go with ‘town council.’ The commission/council could have decided to stick with “Board of Commissioners” but then we would have had to create a new ordinance and have them adopt that to replace the one we had. They didn’t seem interested in doing that so any question about which titles we should go with has now been clarified. We are now working on updating the charter, ordinances, website and other records to reflect what was signed in 2020.”