Picerno Tapped as Chairman
Breaking with tradition, the Moore County Board of Commissioners on Monday elected newcomer Nick Picerno as the new chairman.
His election came with a series of 3-2 votes in which the board majority turned down attempts first to name Tim Lea as the new chairman, then to name Cindy Morgan to the post. Lea, who is beginning his second term on the board, has the most seniority -- a factor usually considered in choosing the chairman. Morgan is in the middle of her first term. The terms run for four years.
"I have watched Commissioner Lea for the last two years work for the people of Moore County," Morgan said in her nomination. "He has been a watchdog for the taxpayer."
When no other commissioner seconded the motion, Lea himself finally offered the second with the comment that it was for the record. When the vote was taken, Commissioners Jimmy Melton, Larry Caddell and Picerno voted against, and the motion failed 3-2.
Lea then made a motion to nominate Morgan as chairwoman, and again the motion failed by the same 3-2 vote.
Melton nominated Picerno, and Caddell made the second. It was approved on the same 3-2 split. Caddell nominated Melton to be vice chairman, with Lea offering an amendment nominating Morgan to that position. Again Lea's motion was voted down 3-2, and the board then voted on the original motion, making Melton vice chairman on a 3-2 vote.
The issue was not raised again until the end of the meeting when the commissioners were asked if they wished to make comments.
Lea expressed disappointment that his goal of sitting on a board where all five commissioners act as individuals within the meeting room, rather than outside, is again not achieved. Lea said he has worked hard in the past four years to keep board operations open and fair to everyone.
"It's obvious that we're back in the same mode," he said.
No further comment was made on this subject.
Melton welcomed Picerno as a new member and Lea for his second term.
Thanking the board for confidence in his ability, Picerno said he wanted to assure everyone "that all four other commissioners sitting here will have my ear."
In her statement nominating Lea, Morgan recalled that when she first took office two years ago, the board members deliberated about the chairmanship and decided on "a common sense approach -- seniority on the board." That led to the election of veteran Commissioner Colin McKenzie, who had the most seniority. McKenzie did not run for re-election to a third term this year and has been succeeded by Picerno, a semiretired businessman who lives in McLendon Hills.
"We landed on seniority because we felt that along with seniority comes experience and a wealth of knowledge about the operations of county government," Morgan said. "I still believe today that when it comes to being chairman, seniority is still important."
Morgan said it was just as important to select the person best suited to lead the county during the current financial difficulties.
"It also means laying egos and differences aside for the better government good," she added.
Clerk to the Board Megan Owrey administered the oath of office to Lea and Picerno during a brief ceremony held at the beginning of the 4 p.m. meeting in the former courtroom of the historic courthouse in downtown Carthage. The ceremony included prayer by Pastor Steven Johnson, of Yates Thagard Baptist Church, the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and a Thanksgiving song by guitarist-singer Mike Thamm.
The meeting room was filled almost to capacity for the ceremony, after which everyone took a 30-minute break for a reception in the rotunda area of the main floor downstairs.
Owrey presided for election of the chairman, then turned the floor over to Picerno, who presided for the election of Jimmy Melton as vice-chairman, an office he has held for the past year.
The prickly subject of the chairmanship came to public attention at the board's organizational meeting in December 2007, when three members voted to re-elect McKenzie as chairman. Morgan called attention to an agreement reached prior to the December 2006 organizational meeting in which the commissioners decided that McKenzie, with the most seniority, would serve as chairman for one year, then Lea would succeed him. But when the vote came in 2007, three members voted to return McKenzie as chairman.
The informal 2006 caucus among the five commissioners, all Republicans, was legal because it was held prior to the swearing-in of three new board members, thus not violating the state's Open Meetings Law. However, their agreement was unofficial and carried no legal authority.
Such a pre-meeting caucus could not be held legally this year because only one member, Picerno, is new, and any meeting of four fully sworn commissioners and one yet-to-be sworn member would have violated state law.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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