Partisan politics came to a head Monday night at the Rutherford County Election Committee meeting.
At issue were the minutes from the preceding meeting held May 4 and what exactly the minutes should contain.
“When you start taking things out of the minutes, it doesn’t pass the sniff test,” Commissioner John Taylor said.
Commissioner Denice Rucker first submitted minutes at the end of May that read more like a transcript of the meeting, where the commission discussed general business, along with starting the process to replace current Elections Administrator Hooper Penuel. At times the debate was heated, mostly between Chairman Tom Walker and Taylor.
Taylor then rewrote the minutes into a summary of the events, as did Rucker. With the Republican caucus still unsatisfied, Rucker rewrote the minutes a third time taking even more of the debate out.
When the third version minutes came to a vote Monday night, the committee voted against approving them on a strict party-line vote with Republicans against and Democrats in favor.
There was some discussion of what the minutes should contain. and Walker suggested Rucker and Commissioner Doris Jones get together and come to an agreement. When Jones was secretary, election commission staff compiled the minutes and she approved them.
Jones argued Robert’s Rules of Order contend minutes should not reflect discussion and debate, but only items that were voted on.
Taylor argued Walker was trying to “micromanage” the secretary’s job.
“Is there something in the minutes you don’t want?” Taylor asked.
“No,” Walker responded.
“Then what’s the problem,” Taylor snapped back.
But there was something Jones wanted to remove, specifically eight paragraphs referring to the process for hiring a new elections administrator.
“I thought they were superfluous. It seemed like laboring a point,” Jones said, adding when she looks at minutes, she looks for facts, not opinions.
Eventually, Jones withdrew her motion and the minutes were approved unanimously without revisions.
The battle over the minutes is just part of a partisan power struggle brewing at the commission, which started last year.
In November 2008, the Republicans took the majority in the General Assembly, giving them, among other privileges, a majority stake in county election commissions across the state.
Earlier this year, long-time Democratic Election Commissioner Robert Rose stepped down and Republican Oscar Gardner took his place.
At the same time, Democrat Taylor was replaced by Republican Walker as chairman of the commission, which is charged with ensuring fair and honest elections in the county. Republican Jones was replaced by Democrat Rucker as secretary and charged with compiling the minutes for each meeting.
On Monday night, the power struggle between the two parties came to a head over a seemingly innocuous item on the minutes, Rucker’s version of the May 4 minutes.
If the commission gets this upset about the minutes, imagine how heated the argument will get about the next administrator of elections.