Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The following questions have been asked of citizens regarding the August 9, 2012, Wasatch County Planning Commission. 1. Is there a requirement on how many commission members must participate in order to have a quorum and how many does it take to make a motion and vote? Wasatch County Code 2.02.08, item E, number 2; “Quorum: Four (4) members of the planning commission shall constitute a quorum. The vote of four (4) commission members shall be required to render any decision or take any action. 2. Why does a planning commission lose control of their meeting to such an extent, they end up embarrassing themselves and fighting with citizens and among each other? It requires a chairperson, who understands why they are there and what laws will apply. It also requires that commission members understand the codes, having read them and have a desire to be honest, open and above board. They should know that citizens have a right to speak and even if the citizens cannot control themselves, the commission should be able to control themselves. In this case, the chair in order to gain control should have taken a break. Citizens as well as commission members have a right to be heard, but a commission should go out of the way, to make sure citizens are heard. In the case of Smith v Skaget County, the Washington State Supreme Court concluded the following: “The right to be heard implies a reasonable hope of being heeded. The right to be heard in a public hearing contemplates that, although the legislative body may, in finally deciding the matter, draw upon all kinds of sources of information including the opinions of experts, the hearing must be conducted as to be free from bias and prejudice; it must not only be open-minded and fair, but must have the appearance of being so.” On item number 2 of the commission agenda, the planning commission admits on the audio they have a conflict of interest by their talk, but they do nothing to correct the situation and in fact actually brag they have an improper connection to the proposal. 3. What happens when a formal complaint is filed with the proper authorities alleging improprieties? What is the proper order? Wasatch County Code 2.02.08: Planning Commission, item “D” Removal and Vacancies: “The County manager may, with the advice and consent of the county legislative body, remove any member of the planning commission for cause if written charges are filed against the member with the manager. The manager shall provide the charged member with a public hearing if the member requests such a hearing. The manager, with the advice and consent of the county legislative body, shall fill any vacancy on the commission. The person appointed to fill the vacancy shall serve for the unexpired term of the member whose office is vacant.” The formal complaint , is dated August 15, 2012. It is addressed to the County Manager Mike Davis, with a copy to each County Councilmember. As of October 31, 2012, no return notice had been received by those who filled the complaint. 4. Does a planning commission have a set of rules they operate under? Are they trained in the performance of their particular calling or appointment so there is no conflict of interest in their deliberations? In a training manual, used to provide information and train planning commission members, we find the following: “A planning commissioner to who some private benefit may be derived as the result of a planning commission action should not be a participant in the action. The private benefit may be direct or indirect, create material personal gain or provide an advantage to relatives’ friends or groups and associations which hold some share of a person’s loyalty. A planning commissioner experiencing a conflict of interest, should declare personal interests publicly, abstain from voting on the action and excuse him/herself from the room during consideration of the action. The commissioner should not discuss the matter privately with any other commissioner. The vote of a planning commissioner with a conflict of interest who failed to disqualify him or herself should be disallowed. (Planning and Zoning Administration in Utah, Center for Public Policy and Administration, University of Utah, Third Edition) By-Laws of Planning Commissions call for complete adherence to the codes or laws in place and speak of removal for those who violate the law. In the case of Buell v City of Bremerton, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington said the following regarding Planning Commissions: “Members of commissions with the role of conducting fair and impartial fact finding hearings must, as far as practicable, be open-minded, objective, impartial, free of entangling influences and capable of hearing the weak voices as well as the strong. The importance of the appearance of fairness has resulted in the recognition that it is necessary only to show an interest which might have influenced a member of the commission and not that it actually so affected him” 5. When a planning commission oversteps their bound who addresses the problem? Elected leaders, when asked about out of control commissions, say they can do nothing. Citizens have expressed their outrage to elected and appointed officials, but said officials repeat they can do nothing. 2.02.08: Planning Commission (Wasatch County Code), item D. Removal and Vacancies: The county manager may, with the advice and consent of the county legislative body, remove any member of the planning commission for cause if written charges are filed against the member with the manager. The manager shall provide the charged member with a public hearing if the member requests such a hearing. The manager, with the advice and consent of the county legislative body, shall fill any vacancy on the commission. 6. If the manager fails to remedy the problem? Can the Council intervene? 2.01.02: County Legislative Body: Number 3. Pursuant to the terms of the optional plan, the county legislative body shall supervise the conduct of the county manager. `2.01.03: County Manager: item C. Term of Office: The term of office of the county manager is not fixed. The office of county manager is an “at will” position. 7. Why has the County Manage, not called for a hearing on this matter as outlined in his duties and responsibilities? The County Manager may have a conflict of interest in this matter. When dealing with friends and family on commissions, wise leaders seek others to assist. In this case, the County Council should intervene in this matter and make sure it comes to a resolution. 8. The county planning commission made a motion that did not meet the requirements of law. How should the issue be addressed? The current law in Wasatch County allows the County Manager and eventually the County Council to step in and resolve the problem. Planning Commissions for a number of years have been out of control as to how they meet with the public and how they react to issues they really do not want to deal with. Not knowing the laws and the procedures is not an excuse. But it has been allowed, by those who should not only know better, but have the power to correct it. The motion made as it appeared in the minutes of the August 9, 2012 meeting: Commissioner Duke made a motion that we approve to RA-5 residential agricultural five-acre lots for Paul Smith as directed by the Wasatch County Planning “Staff and go in accordance with the staff’s analysis and recommendations and forward it to the Wasatch County Council for the August 15, 2012 meeting. Commissioner Probst seconded the motion. The motion carries with the following vote: AYE: Robert Gappmayer, Spencer Duke, Paul Probst. NAY: Liz Lewis, Gerald Hayward. Notice that only three (3) voted to move the matter forward. 9. And why would such a proposal be forwarded to the County, when the law is clear, that such matters are only taken up in November? A change in this requirement has been discussed and voted upon and the code has a word added that mentions “by November”. 10. Why is the County Council allowing themselves to be embarrassed by actions of committees that violate codes and ordinances? When dealing with friends and relatives, people are willing to take a lot of punishment and to offer a treasure trove of excuses to cover.. Those who have the power need to address issues based on law and order. It has been said: “If in doubt, find out”.