Bertie Commissioners dissolve HRC

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 16, 2006

WINDSOR – For the time being, Bertie County will be without a Human Relations Commission (HRC).

By a 3-1 tally, the Bertie Board of Commissioners voted Monday night during their regularly scheduled meeting to dissolve the HRC.

That move came at the request of Dr. Nayland Collier, Chairman of the HRC. Commission Vice-Chairman Michael Freeman agreed with the request.

“Our attendance (at HRC board meetings) has been unacceptable,” Dr. Collier said. “We can’t get business done. We can’t even get enough to establish a quorum in order to approve the minutes of the previous meeting.”

The Bertie HRC is an 11-member board with one additional non-voting member (Bertie Commissioner L.C. Hoggard III). Listed among its duties are conducting diversity workshops and dealing with issues concerning race relations and housing discrimination.

Established by the Bertie Board of Commissioners, the HRC also informs the general public, through open meetings conducted monthly, of existing local, state and federal policies, regulations and programs and how they directly affect the lives of Bertie County residents.

“We’ve lost our vision…we’ve lost our sight and focus,” Dr. Collier noted. “We are asking to be dissolved and are asking you (commissioners) to reconsider reforming us in a couple of months.”

Norman Cherry Sr., vice-chairman of the Bertie Commissioners, asked for the HRC board to show proof of what Dr. Collier was requesting. Freeman, who was seated in the audience, said he concurred with Dr. Collier’s request.

Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb inquired of the number of HRC members who normally attend the meetings.

“Our attendance has been very spotty,” Dr. Collier answered. “Some have missed three, four or five meetings consecutively. Our bylaws state that three consecutive absences are grounds for dismissal by the county commissioners.”

Rick Harrell, Chairman of the Bertie Commissioners, asked Dr. Collier did the HRC continue to serve a purpose to the citizens of the county.

“It still has the capacity to serve our citizens, but without reorganization, we cannot continue,” Dr. Collier replied. “I feel we’ve done some good things in the past.”

Cherry said he hated to see the HRC dissolve, imploring Collier and Freeman to “please find some folks that will serve on the board.”

“I know this commission was formed with the understanding of having representation from throughout the county on its board,” Cherry added. “But if that’s becoming a problem and we have 11 people from Windsor ready and willing to serve, then so be it.”

Hoggard then put a motion on the floor that, based upon the recommendation of the HRC Chairman and Vice-Chairman, called for the Commissioners to dismantle the Bertie County HRC as it exists today with the strong intent to reorganize it in the near future.

Commissioner Wallace Perry offered a second to Hoggard’s motion.

Harrell said he had a problem with the motion as presented, saying he was not sure the HRC is needed as currently established.

After Monday’s meeting, Harrell told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that he and his colleagues on the Bertie Board of Commissioners have had some real problems with the HRC.

“I’m not convinced we need a Human Relations Commission,” Harrell said during a Wednesday interview by telephone. “If I would have made the motion, I would have called for the abolishment of the Human Relations Commission and then, if we so choose, create it again.”

Hoggard’s motion passed by a 3-1 margin with Harrell casting the dissenting vote. Commissioner Jasper Bazemore was not present at Monday’s meeting.