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Wake County school board being transparent in hiring of lobbyist

The Wake County school board is going for full transparency in its search for a lobbyist to represent its interests against the state legislative changes being proposed by commissioners.

The school board will vote on which firm will be hired. This is a followup to the Feb. 5 vote authorizing interim Superintendent Stephen Gainey to hire a lobbyist.

School administrators say the board wants to publicly vote on naming the lobbyist Instead of leaving it up to Gainey. School board policy would have allowed Gainey to hire the lobbyist without any board vote because the contract would be for up to $100,000.

That's how the county handled the hiring of its lobbyist where no public vote was held. As this memo from County Manager David Cooke and County Attorney Scott Warren shows, county staff hired Tom Fetzer as the lobbyist and notified the commissioners after the fact.

CORRECTION

The board will vote on hiring the lobbyist but, at least as of now, it's not on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting.

Wake County school system trying to find buyers for former administrative buildings

It's not been easy for the Wake County school system to sell the three former administration buildings it owns in Raleigh.

As noted in today's article, the school board will vote today on an offer of $2.6 million for the Noble Road property. It's $900,000 less than the school system had hoped to get.

Proceeds from the sale are supposed to help pay for the cost of leasing and operating the new headquarters in Cary. As noted in today's article by Thomas Goldsmith, there are some questions as well about how that lease deal was handed.

 

UPDATE

The sale of the Noble Road site was approved 8-1 with only John Tedesco in dissent.

Wake Democrats pick Erv Portman for county commissioner vacancy

The leadership of the Wake County Democratic Party voted tonight for Cary Town Councilman Erv Portman to replace Stan Norwalk on the board of commissioners.

Portman was the lone nominee at the meeting. Portman would take the seat unless the GOP majority on the board of commissioners rejected him and called for a special election this year to fill Norwalk's vacant seat.

Traditionally, the commissioners have deferred to the political party of the commissioner who resigned. This would mean that Portman would fill Norwalk's seat through at least the end of his term in 2012.

How Portman, who is far more pro-development than Norwalk, fits in on the commissioners and on school issues remains to be seen.

UPDATE

Click here for Friday's article by Thomas Goldsmith and Andy Kenney in which County Attorney Scott Warren says that rejecting Portman's appointment would result in a a special election for Democratic voters to fill Norwalk's seat.

Tony Gurley pledges cooperation with new school board majority

New Wake County Commissioners Chairman Tony Gurley is pledging a closer working relationship with the school board, assuming he still holds the post by the end of the day.

As noted in today's article, the commissioners will reconvene at 10 a.m. to try to break the 3-3 deadlock on vice chair. But Gurley and Wake Democratic Party Chairman Jack Nichols are expecting the Dems to try to revote on chairman if Harold Webb is able to attend.

Gurley insists that his election on Monday, made possible by Betty Lou Ward's unexcused bathroom break, lasts for the whole year. The Democrats may feel otherwise.

UPDATE

Today's meeting is on Time Warner Cable Channel 11, at least in Raleigh. Click here for the county web site for the link to watch it live online.

Harold Webb is participating by phone. Betty Lou Ward is calling for a revote on chairman. She's threatening to sue if Gurley doesn't allow a revote. Gurley has ruled her out of order, saying they can't go back because of all the actions they did after that vote Monday. County Attorney Scott Warren said he's siding with Gurley that she's out of order but would have to recuse himself in favor of outside counsel if a lawsuit is filed.

With Webb present by phone, it ended on one vote today with Ward being named vice chairwoman by a 4-3 vote over Paul Coble. According to Coble, it was the 129th vote on vice chair.

Health concern or political ploy?

New Wake County Commissioners Chairman Tony Gurley may want to bring some insulin from his pharmacy at future meetings.

As noted in today's article, it took Commissioner Stan Norwalk citing the need for an insulin shot to end more than eight hours of voting on a vice chairman. At his request, the meeting was recessed until 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Norwalk's health came up several times during the meeting. He has diabetes.

Skirting the Open Public Meetings Law?

It was clear Tuesday that the new Wake County school board majority had come to the meeting with a definite plan of action in the form of seven resolutions and a policy they added on the spot.

As noted in today's article, members of the new majority acknowledged that they held private meetings ahead of time in order to make a big splash at their first meeting. It looks like their actions complied with the letter but not the spirit of the state Open Public Meetings Law.

"It's a clear violation of the spirit of the law," said Cathy Packer, a media law professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.

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