Council Votes In Rule Changes At Workshop - TribPapers

Council Votes In Rule Changes At Workshop

New Councilmen Peter McGuire and Dee Lawrence take seats at workshop after being sworn in. Photo by Clint Parker

Weaverville – It’s official: Weaverville has two new town councilmen, Peter McGuire and Dee Lawrence, who took their oaths of office along with John Chase, who was re-elected to the council. The swearing-in occurred at the December Weaverville Town Council Workshop on Tuesday, December 12th, which was very lightly attended. The council also elected Councilwoman Catherine Cordell as the vice mayor.

The council approved the 2024 town council meeting schedule and the workshops. Weaverville Town Manager Selena Coffey recommended “a little bit of a departure for the adoption of the budget… and not wait until the last week of June to get it adopted.” She proposed it be adopted at the June 18th budget workshop.

Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons interjected, “Never going to happen.” Not hearing his comment, Coffey responded, “I’m sorry?” Causing Fitzsimmons to repeat his remark along with a laugh.

The rest of the meeting was about getting the new council members acquainted with some of the rules of procedure and an update on some of those changes, conducted by Coffey and Town Attorney Jennifer Jackson.

Jackson said some had inquired about remotely meeting and voting, to which she said that while it is acceptable for the public, the council could attend remotely and participate in the discussion but, per state law, could not vote. “Unless there is a law change or unless we’re back under a declared emergency, you cannot be part of a quorum or vote.”

The first of the updates to the rules was that the “council will hold its organizational meeting on the date and at the time of… the first regular meeting in December following each general election” instead of the “regular meeting in November in which council members are elected,” Jackson said this was to give more time between the election board’s certification of the election and when the elected officials take their oaths.

Jackson said this change was proposed by the two outgoing members (Andrew Nagle and Jeff McKenna). “I thought that was perfect as it would not affect them.”

Another change in the rules was for public comment that “it should be noted that all meetings of the Town Council are recorded and available for public viewing and listening, and most are streamed live via Zoom unless technological issues are experienced.”

Jackson said that was because of a recent incident where a technical problem caused a comment from a speaker not to be recorded or broadcasted during the council’s meeting via Zoom. That speaker was Lou Accornero, a developer who spoke critically of some of the council’s actions. The incident caused Accornero to stop all his development plans in Weaverville.

One last change will be that public comment speakers will not have to state their address in the future. In the past, public comment speakers would come to the podium and state their name and address, but Jackson said concerns over placing a person “in danger” led to the change “because we didn’t want to do that.” The rules changed.

The council also adopted a new code of ethics. Jackson said the council first adopted a code of ethics back in 1998, but a new code was developed by the Department of Treasury and the Local Government Commission. Jackson used that model to create a new code of ethics for the council and mayor. The council decided to put off the passage because the members needed more time to study, and they put it on the consent agenda for next week’s meeting.

Jackson and Coffey then went over the ten different committees and boards that the town has or has representation on, including the Land of Sky Regional Council, the French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County, which are not actually a part of the town but are regional commissions. Cordell said she would like to see members of those committees report to the council at least twice a year.

As a reminder before the meeting was adjourned, Coffey told the council to do their homework for the Strategic Planning Retreat in January.