STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COUNTY OF HENDERSON
AUGUST 26, 1999
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for a special-called meeting on Thursday, August 26, 1999 at 5:00 pm in the Commissioners= Conference Room 140. Present were: Chairman Grady Hawkins, Vice-Chair Bill Moyer, Commissioner Marilyn Gordon, Commissioner Renee Kumor, Commissioner Don Ward, County Manger David E. Nicholson, Assistant County Manager/Interim County Attorney Angela S. Beeker, and Acting Clerk to the Board, Avalina B. Merrill. County staff present were: DSS Director Liston B. Smith; Environmental Health Supervisor, Robert Smith; Tax Collector Terry F. Lyda; Paralegal Darlene Burgess; Staff Attorney Jennifer O. Jackson. Also present were DSS Board Chairman William G. Lapsley, DSS Board Members Frank Blazey and Jack Drill, and Board of Health Chairman Keith Dale.
Absent was Clerk to the Board, Elizabeth W. Corn.
Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order and welcomed all in attendance. He stated the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the implementation of a Legal Department. The Board voted during budget deliberations to establish a Legal Department to consolidate the legal services for all County departments and create a single enforcement branch. Currently, the County has numerous attorneys engaged to serve the legal needs of its agencies. This has resulted in fragmented enforcement. County agencies engaging attorneys for legal services are DSS, Health Department, Tax Collector and the Sheriff=s Department. In addition, Staff Attorney Jennifer Jackson provides legal services for the County Manager and staff and Interim County Attorney Angela S. Beeker provides legal services for the Board of Commissioners.
Chairman Hawkins invited Interim County Attorney Angela S. Beeker to open the discussion by explaining to the Board what requirements for legal services were provided for in the General Statutes. Ms. Beeker presented a copy of a segment within the publication COUNTY GOVERNMENT IN NORTH CAROLINA and quoted from a section entitled Defense of Employees and Payment of Judgements, AEach county is authorized, but not required, to provide for the defense of any civil or criminal action brought against current or former officers and eaccount of alleged acts or omissions committed in the scope and course of their employment ©G. S.153A-97, 160A-167(a)ª. A county may provide a defense through the county attorney or by hiring a private attorney.@ Ms. Beeker also noted that a County may purchase liability insurance that would provide legal defense for lawsuits brought against certain County officers or employees. She further stated such insurance was already provided for Henderson County. Ms. Beeker also noted that the decision whether to provide a defense at all rested with the County Commissioners. Ms. Beeker presented charts from the publication COUNTY SALARIES IN NORTH CAROLINA-1999 showing the salary ranges and legal services provided by County Attorneys and DSS Attorneys for North Carolina County governments. She also presented a chart summarizing the legal expenses incurred for Fiscal Year 98-99 by Henderson County agencies.
The Board of Commissioners had invited those County agencies who already were engaging attorneys to provide input as to how to effectively blend a department that could serve their legal needs. DSS Board Chairman William G. Lapsley informed the Commissioners of primary concern for DSS legal representation was the need for on demand and immediate response to DSS cases needing legal defense. Mr. Lapsley also noted that DSS law is somewhat specialized and has some financial parameters due to federal and state mandated funding. Those factors make it difficult to find private attorneys who are willing to take such cases. Board of Health Chairman Keith Dale listed the primary concerns for the Department of Health were quick accessibility to legal representation and timely response. Tax Collector Terry Lyda stated the Staff Attorney was currently providing legal guidance and representation for that department. Mr. Lyda permitted his paralegal Darlene Burgess to express her concerns about legal representation for the Tax Collection Department. Ms. Burgess stated a primary concern was to make certain that paralegals were under the direct supervision of an attorney to remain in compliance with the NC State Bar requirements. Ms. Burgess stated she was interested in pursuing the recently discussed position of Delinquent Tax Collector and she would need an Administrative Assistant to aid in that position. Physical location for the Delinquent Tax Collector, Paralegal and Administrative Assistant with close proximity to the Tax Collector=s department and Register of Deeds section would promote greater efficiency and productivity for that staff.
Chairman Hawkins thanked those individuals for their valuable input. He stated the primary goal of the Board in the implementation of the Legal Department was to create a more effective and efficient use of the legal resources. He then invited the Commissioners to express their thoughts and ideas on the implementation of the Legal Department. There was brief discussion among the Board members. The Board stated it may be necessary to implement the Legal Department in phases rather than all at one time. Ms. Beeker was directed by the Board to talk with other NC Counties about how their legal services were provided and present to them a draft of the structure for a Legal Department. No date was set for a future meeting to continue this discussion.
Chairman Hawkins adjourned the meeting at 6:40 p.m.
Grady Hawkins, Chairman
ATTEST: Henderson County Board of Commissioners
Avalina B. Merrill