Auditor pushes for openness after challenge over meeting minutes

    COUNTY – A routine line item on the Shelby County Board of Supervisors’ April 20 agenda to approve the previous meeting’s minutes was prefaced with some discussion regarding protocol last week.
    Shelby County Auditor Mark Maxwell said he was challenged by another elected official about the accuracy of the minutes regarding a citizen who addressed the board April 6 with concerns about treasurer’s office procedures.
    Maxwell said he outlined that discussion in the minutes, but was challenged by an official who, according to Maxwell, didn’t like what he had put in the minutes.
    “The last time I looked, the county auditor is the clerk to the board of supervisors,” said Maxwell.  “The board of supervisors then has a chance to consider approval of the minutes.  No other elected official, not even myself, has a say in the final draft of the minutes.”
    Maxwell said he tries hard not to put any opinions in the minutes as they are simply records for future recollection and to refer to for future guidance.
    “The suggestion by the other person asking me to change the minutes from the original version was offensive on my elected obligations and duties,” Maxwell said.

April 6 discussion
    The original minutes, which hadn’t yet been formally approved but were sent out for review, contained more detailed interaction from Shelby County resident Gary Hopp concerning what he viewed as frustrating treasurer’s office wait times or appointments.
    Appointments aren’t needed in many surrounding counties, he said, for vehicle registrations or for driver’s licenses.  Hopp questioned dollars spent versus the possibility of less services on demand, and also noted several counties don’t require masks in their facilities.
    Amended minutes that were later approved by the board of supervisors removed more of the detailed discussion between Hopp and elected officials from the official minutes.
    Maxwell said the minutes are for the supervisors to approve, disapprove or amend as needed at a public meeting.  Reasons for changing the minutes should be publicly disclosed and recorded at approval time.
    “This creates more transparency, removes political pressure from the supervisors from those who consistently try to influence other department’s decisions to their benefit,” Maxwell said.  “Now it has grown to county records and supervisor’s duties.”
    Maxwell said he believes any displeasure with the minutes by others in the future should be brought to the attention of the supervisors at an open meeting, not by phone call out of the public eye.
    ‘Approving the content of the minutes is only for the supervisors to decide,” he said.  “Any changes to the minutes, and reasons for changing, should be approved and revealed only at an open meeting.”

Video available
    Maxwell did modify the original version of the minutes, eliminating some comments and details, and generalized the comments.
    He said the full video of the April 6 meeting is available at Farmers Mutual Cooperative Telephone Company, which filmed the meeting, and through the Harlan Municipal Utilities, which re-broadcasts.  Maxwell said he also has a copy on his computer in the office.
    “I would be happy to provide this video to anyone who might request it,” he said.  “It should be public record.
    “The minutes are not intended to be a full transcript of a meeting, but a simple overview of what was said, and or course what actions were taken or not taken by the board of supervisors.”


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