Officials’ terms long expired

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By Laura Hagan

Members of the La Grange Historic District Commission received certified letters recently indicating some terms expired two years ago.

Commissioner Linda Corbin said the letter she received from the city explains terms have expired and commissioners must apply to be reappointed. 

She’s served on the historic district commission about 18 years, however, city documents only show her service in recent years.

Corbin’s letter said she was appointed in January 2005 and her term expired in 2007.

The commission’s monthly meeting took place Aug. 11 night. At the meeting, Mayor Elsie Carter asked commissioners to re-apply for new terms.

“I don’t think (the city is) trying to make a big deal of it,” Corbin said. “I think it’s just run along at it’s own pace and been neglected.”

According to city records obtained by an open records request, three commissioners had been appointed in November 2005 and two in January 2005 with terms expiring in 2007.

City attorney Graham Whatley said when he came into office, he couldn’t find record of boards and commissions for the city. His research, he said, shows no reappointment process for members of the historic district commission after their  terms ended in 2007. 

Whatley said there was a mistaken belief that terms were four years instead of two, and the city employed three city clerks betweem 2006-07. 

The ordinance creating the commission also says that “each member shall serve until the appointment and qualification of his or her successor.”

In a letter mailed Aug. 10, Whatley informed commissioners their terms had expired and encouraged them to send a letter of interest and a copy of their resume to the mayor for re-appointment. 

Appointments are approved by the city council. 

Whatley said his intent is to bring city officials back into compliance. Similar letters will go to members of other boards or commissions.

Commissioners have been embroiled in a heated debate recently regarding the fate an $11,000 city-funded sign marking the James T. Beaumont Community Center in La Grange.

In May, historic district commissioners recommended modifying the sign as it doesn’t comply with guidelines for the city’s historic district.

Members of the city’s park board spent months designing the sign. Officials learned post-construction that it doesn’t comply with guidelines.

The sign is taller than the five-foot standards and exceeds other dimensions allowed for a sign in an historic district. It cost the city $11,000, and stands nearly seven feet tall at the peak.

After months of controversy, city council members voted 5-1 earlier this month to approve it.

Corbin said Aug. 12 she believes most commissioners plan to renew their terms.

“(The commission) is an important aspect of the city,” she said.

Chairman Gary Williams, who has served the commission for 14 years, said he doesn’t plan to continue his service. 

He said Aug. 13 the controversy surrounding the sign has prompted him to end his service. 

Williams said he believes city council’s majority vote to override the commission’s recommendation is evidence of the council’s intent to act above the law. 

Williams said he’s resigning because he doesn’t want to enforce guidelines the city council doesn’t follow. 

He said the company that designed the sign should have insurance that could cover alternations to make it comply with guidelines.

The commission can have as few as five or as many as 12 commissioners. Williams’ decision to end his service leaves the commission with five members, although Williams said he is unsure if those five will continue their service.


E-mail us about this story at: lhagan@oldhamera.com