#ncga: “It depends on what your definition of ‘PRESENT’ is.”

The county that gave us Fletcher Hartsell and Robin Hayes is attempting to make one more, um,  *significant* contribution to our state’s political heritage.  Some folks in Cabarrus County are — with some help from the ‘honorables’ on Jones Street –– trying to surreptitiously redefine the word ‘present.’

We’ve all heard the expression ‘present in body, but not in mind.’

As a noun, ‘present’ can be taken as a synonym for ‘gift.’  (i.e., “I gave him that envelope full of 100s as a present.”)

As a verb, ‘present’ can be a synonym for the word ‘give.’  (i.e., “I will present him an envelope stuffed with cash.”)

As an adjective, the word ‘present’ can be taken to mean that someone or something is located in the immediate vicinity.  (i.e., “The legislator was present at the meeting where the envelopes stuffed with cash exchanged hands.”)

A local House bill sponsored by two Republicans and one Democrat from Cabarrus – and inexplicably, a Democrat House member from Cumberland County – wants members of local governing bodies to be counted as ‘present’ at meetings even if they are not anywhere in sight or within ten miles of the meeting.  Here are some of the details:

Soif this passesif you are absent from the meeting, you can be counted as PRESENT for the sake of establishing a quorum for conducting business. EVEN IF your absence has not been excused. 

*Don’t feel like attending your committee or board or council meeting? Don’t go. The record will show you are PRESENT and a quorum can still be established.   What could go wrong here?*

Even better — if your colleagues want you there at the meeting, they can send the sheriff to go arrest you and drag your sorry butt to the meeting site.

The bill also allows for ‘remote voting.’  If you decide you don’t want to go to the meeting, you can STILL cast votes on items discussed during the meeting from the comfort of your secret hideaway.

I talked to a few Cabarrus moles to get an idea of exactly what spawned all this.  Apparently, there is a county commissioner there who is very ill.  Many questioned whether he should have run for reelection last time.  The commissioner in question does not make it to meetings, from what I understand.  So, some politicos – who appreciate how this ill commissioner votes – want to ensure he can still participate.

The right thing to do would be to encourage this guy to resign and appoint a replacement for him who is healthy enough to show up for meetings and do the job. But that can prove to be a hell of a wild card when you’ve already got a known quantity with a known voting record. 

A more cynical observer might see this as a naked attempt by some local politicos to take advantage of a seriously ill politician to further their own nefarious ends.

Showing up at meetings is a major part of the job description for a county commissioner or any other elected official.  Somebody down there in Cabarrus needs to step up and be the grownup here.  Settle this the right way — respecting the official and his constituents.

This bill could be misused and abused in other Cabarrus County cases — or even in other counties, if others decide to copy this local legislation.

THIS is a bad idea.