Historically, members of the Board of Commissioners have refrained from commenting on items of pending litigation. Generally, if an item of pending litigation is to be discussed, it is done so in executive session where all participants can be assured that the topic and discussion will remain confidential.
At the conclusion of every meeting after an executive session has been held, the Board of Commissioners votes (always unanimously) for the chairman to execute the executive session affidavit. This sworn statement confirms that the executive session was held for a subject allowed to be discussed in executive session. One such subject is pending litigation where discussion among the Board of Commissioners is protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Executive sessions involving pending litigation are confidential. Each member of the Board of Commissioners has a duty to ensure confidential information discussed in executive session remains confidential. I have abided by this duty and it is my intention and practice to continue to do so.
Recently, a front page story in a local newspaper devoted substantial coverage to a matter where the Board of Commissioners is a party in a lawsuit. The story contained information commenting on pending litigation. I can’t speak for all commissioners, but I would hope that all commissioners continue to respect the protocol of not commenting on pending litigation while observing the duty of confidentiality of executive sessions.
The county’s business occurs in meetings of the Board of Commissioners. Most all meetings are attended by all commissioners. Occasionally, a commissioner is unable to attend a meeting. Occasionally meetings occur outside the normal framework of meetings, i.e., called meetings. Called meetings occur when an issue develops requiring the attention of the Board of Commissioners sooner than the normal meeting schedule. I as the chairman have the authority to call a meeting of the Board of Commissioners. Any two commissioners share that same authority.
Since I have been chairman, no called meeting has occurred specifically to exclude any commissioner.
It is an honor to serve as a member and chairman of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. I am a member because the citizens of Fayette County elected me to this position. I am the chairman because my peers chose me to lead this body. It is a privilege to serve the citizens of Fayette County. I have the deepest respect for the citizens, my colleagues, and for the positions I hold. If one wishes to lead, one must be willing to listen. It is my duty to listen to all citizens who seek me.
This entire episode brings to mind a common lament: Why is it so hard to find good people willing to offer themselves for public office? We have seen a perfect example unfold before our very eyes. When we lack respect for each other, when we lack respect for the truth, we shouldn’t expect more than we’ve been treated to this past week.
Charles W. Oddo
Chairman, Fayette County Board of Commissioners