In a rare display, Wake County commissioners on Monday quarreled openly in their meeting and one aired her frustrations on Facebook.
The seven-member board, all Democrats, argued over the creation of an affordable housing steering committee. The board on Monday was scheduled to vote to adopt the committee’s procedural rules and appoint members, which were recommended by county staff.
Instead, the board voted 5-2 on Commissioner John Burns’ motion to delay any action on the issue until the next meeting, on Dec. 5.
The move irked Commissioner Jessica Holmes, who said she’s been working for two years to create the committee and get started on providing Wake with more affordable housing solutions. Prior to the meeting, she found out about Burns’ intention to delay the vote and posted her frustrations on Facebook.
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In her post, Holmes suggested that Burns wanted to delay the vote because the pastor of his church, First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, was not selected as a member of the 29-person committee.
“These questions have arisen suddenly, coincidentally after his pastor was not selected,” Holmes wrote. “We could not accommodate each applicant due to the overwhelming amount of interest.”
Burns said his desire to delay the vote had nothing to do with his pastor or any specific recommended committee member. He said he wants to hear more information from county staff on how they assembled the committee.
“It’s come fully formed without a whole lot of input,” Burns said during Monday’s meeting. “I don’t want to change the current makeup. I don’t want to change any of the rules or procedures.”
Commissioners-elect Greg Ford and Erv Portman are scheduled to replace commissioners Betty Lou Ward and Caroline Sullivan at the next meeting. Affordable housing is a top priority of the board, and Ford and Portman should have a chance to review a committee “that’s going to define their first two years,” Burns said.
Board Chairman James West defended Burns and said he wants to vet and improve the committee to give it more balance.
“Take my residential district,” he said of the area that spans Southeast Raleigh and parts of eastern Wake County. “The folks affected by this in my district, there’s not a single person on that committee or board.”
County staff recommended five people from West’s district for the committee.
“If we start out this way where people feel like they’ve been left out of the process ... they’ll possibly sabotage the process,” West said.
Commissioners agreed at the end of their discussion that they did not handle their disagreements the way they should have. Holmes said Burns emailed the group about his intentions while she was out of the country.
“Never once has (Burns) called me or sent me a personal email or a text message,” Holmes said. “So the way that this situation has been handled has been very poor, it’s very disrespectful and this is not how we should communicate with each other.”
“It’s unfortunate that a misstatement be broadcast over the television and to the folks in this room and that aspersions be cast on fellow commissioners and their motivations,” Burns said. “I hate that this has turned into a perceived slight against one commissioner when in fact it was an effort to make this a better committee.”