Published 10:16 am Friday, January 19, 2024

The January 16th Board of Commissioners meeting held the yearly vote for Chair and Vice chair. Commissioner Jessie Smith nominated Commissioner Clay Jones as chair. Commissioner Jim Reid nominated Commissioner David Baldwin as chair. Baldwin was elected chair, with former Chairmen Mark Waddell, Reid, and Baldwin voting for, and Jones and Smith voting against.

Jones nominated Smith as vice chair. Waddell nominated Reid as vice chair. Reid was elected vice chair, with Reid, Baldwin, and Reid voting in favor.

Latoya McCants was unanimously appointed County Clerk.

Smith and Jones voted against a motion to reappoint Hayden Hooks as the County attorney, with Waddell, Reid, and Baldwin voting in favor, causing it to pass.

The Board then heard citizens comments.

Craig Walker addressed the Board.

“Our elections supervisor Mr. Howard walked out on us, on the whole County.”

He questioned Waddell about his appointment to the Board of Elections.

“Why is Randy Howard fit to serve and Miss Reddick is not, Mr. Waddell?”

Walker made several further criticisms of Waddell, Reid, and Baldwin, calling them cowards and claiming Baldwin and Reid were “intimidating” County employees.

Ethan Wolfe then addressed the Board, listing several questions.

“Why was the 2nd Democratic Party nomination of Mr. Edge not considered at last week’s work session and will he be considered tonight?”

Wolfe showed support for allowing parties to choose members of the Elections Board, questioning a discussion of changes to the Board listed on the previous meeting’s agenda.

“Any changes, for example, stripping the parties of their nomination ability, would create more distrust and division within this Board and Sumter County. Maybe a better solution would be to apportion two board positions to each party and have the Board of Commissioners nominate one regardless of party.”

Reid introduced a resolution to amend ordinance 2019-083.

“Three: The Board of Elections shall at all meetings both public and executive session, have the County Attorney present unless the attorney is not available.

Four: For the purpose of good, efficient record keeping, all public meetings of the Board of Elections shall be recorded, and such recordings will be given to the County Clerk to file for archival purposes.

Five: The minutes of every public meeting of the Board of Elections shall be posted to the Board’s website no latter than 10 days following the approval by the Board.”

Ried made a motion that the resolution be adopted. Waddell seconded it. Smith asked for discussion.

Smith questioned Waddell and Jones, referencing the changes in the amendment that had led to the County attorney no longer being required at Elections Board meetings.

Waddell responded.

“It was in the original resolution to have the attorney be there. Why it wasn’t put back in there, I don’t know, but I think it needs to be back in there.”

Latimore responded to Smith’s questions about use of an attorney.

“We do use the attorney.”

Latimore defended the Board’s operation.

“The majority votes as far as how we operate.”

She criticized scrutiny of the Board of Elections.

“I thought at some point, you all would have, since you are listening to them, call in the chairmen and ask them questions instead of listening to one side. I really want, as far as that Election Board, to have not just the attorney run to you, and tell you things, I wish you would ask us. Client privilege.”

Smith argued against interfering with Boards.

“Once we put people on the Board, should we attempt to try to control that Board? We aren’t supposed to from all the training I got.”

Jones warned requiring attorney services would be abused.

“You make $400 a meeting; wouldn’t you sit on a meeting?”

Jones responded to Smith’s question about the appropriateness of involvement.

“When I was chairmen, I went to an Election Board Meeting. I came back and told my Commissioners’ what I saw was going on. A lot of stuff was wrong. It wasn’t the same Elections Board. I came back, and my commissioners told me ‘Clay, don’t go over there anymore. That Board is independent.”

Smith and Jones voted against the resolution, with Reid, Waddell, and Baldwin voting for it, causing it to pass.

Jones made a motion to appoint Eugene Edge to the Board of Elections, which was seconded by Smith, with Reid, Waddell, and Baldwin voting against, causing it to fail.

More news covering the January 16th meeting was recorded in a second article.