published: Friday, June 29, 2012
Helms asks for 2.5 hours to present case
By ED BALDRIDGE
SEBRING -- A County Commission vote of 2-1 on Tuesday kept the termination schedule of County Administrator Ricky Helms on track for the July 3 meeting.
Commissioner Barbara Stewart read a prepared motion that would allow Board Chairman Jack Richie to participate via telephone in case he could not make the July 3 meeting.
The motion was to allow Richie to participate in the discussion and vote to terminate while he stayed at his wife's bedside while she battled with cancer. Richie's wife, Maurine, died Tuesday night after the meeting.
Commissioner Don Elwell, acting as chair in Richie's absence, was the dissenting vote and made it clear he wanted all commissioners present for the discussion.
Stewart pressed her arguments for the motion, stressing her concern for budget pressures.
"Time is of the essence," Stewart said.
"The end is still the same. Time is of the essence, I don't understand that argument," Elwell said.
Elwell again stated that he was willing to postpone the Helms discussion until every commissioner was present and could participate.
Helms asked for 2.5 hours at the next meeting for his hearing and presentation and Elwell stressed that all commissioners should be present to hear Helms out.
"It is most fair if all five of us are here. I am sure Commissioner Richie will be back here and will want to participate. I truly believe that for this to be a fair process, everybody should be there for every leg of this," Elwell said.
Elwell opened the discussion up for public input, to which Stewart objected.
"This is something between the board and their employee," Stewart said in opposition to public input on the motion.
"This is the people's administrator. Unlike Mr. Richie on this point, I will seek the views of the public on this," Elwell responded, emphasizing that he wanted the comments limited to just the motion at hand.
Audience members agreed with Elwell's assessment that the discussion should be open to the public.
"To claim that there are things that are off limits to the citizens is preposterous," said Highlands County resident Dale Pflug.
Commissioner Ron Handley voted to allow the phone-in if Richie was not able to make the meeting.
Commissioner Greg Harris was out with a scheduled absence.
The July 3 meeting will begin at 9 a.m.
Small Banner Ads