BAD AXE – Recent “heated exchanges” at Huron County Planning Commission meetings have inspired the commission to consider tweaking its bylaws.
Commissioners may have to take a constitutional oath of office as soon as next month, under advice from county Corporate Counsel Steve Allen.
“We’ve had some heated exchanges at some of our meetings in the last few months,” Allen said at Wednesday night’s planning commission meeting.
So he and county Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith have been looking into how to address conduct at meetings.
“The emotions continue to rise as the developments move forward,” Allen said.
Allen called the bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order “adequate tools” that can be used to govern the commission.
The Michigan Planning Enabling Act requires the bylaws, Allen said.
It is in the bylaws that conflicts of interest are addressed.
Residents over the past several months have accused commissioners who have wind turbines on their property of having a conflict of interest while voting on wind energy issues.
Others have accused commissioners who publicly say that they are against wind energy of having a conflict of interest with the same issues.
Some members of the public have said that commissioners who publicly state their opinion on wind energy are not following the bylaws.
For example, the bylaws state that once an issue is decided by vote, “the duty of each member of the commission is to represent the position reflected by the outcome of the vote.”
Allen said there is an attorney general’s opinion that says that planning commissioners are public officers pursuant to the federal and state constitution, which Allen said he agrees with.
The commission’s by-law committee will examine the issue.
The by-law committee consists of commissioners Carl Duda, Robert Oakes, Mary Babcock and Bernie Creguer. Commissioner Terry Heck was named the alternate Wednesday night.
Smith said he and Allen would consider issues in the 2015 bylaws that the committee should address, at which point a meeting would be held.
County Commissioner John Nugent, who also sits on the planning commission, asked whether any of the decisions made by the planning commission to date could be in jeopardy since not everyone has taken the oath of office.
Allen said this would not invalidate anything the commission had done since its formation in 1966.
Smith read the oath so that commissioners would know what they will be swearing to: “I do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of the planning commission according to the best of my ability.”
The next scheduled meeting for the planning commission is Nov. 2.
The county clerk’s office will be busy with the election at that time, so a judge may have to administer the oath, Allen said.
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