Friday, September 07, 2007

Revisionist History…

On September 5th Commissioner Eric Maxwell attempted to change history. He asked that the Commission change the minutes of a previous meeting (August 1st, 2007) and that they change the affidavit regarding what they discussed during Executive Session.

To understand why this is important in the big scheme of things you need to know a bit about what Commissioners (and any other group of elected officials) are allowed to discuss legally behind closed doors (called Executive Session by the Fayette County Board), and what the restrictions are if they’re going to do so.

They can discuss personnel issues, real estate matters and legal items. That’s it. If they’re going to discuss a legal matter, they MUST have an attorney present.

The record (minutes) of the August 1st meeting reflected that Commissioner Maxwell asked that the Board discuss a LEGAL item in Executive Session. They did not have an attorney at that time.

If the records remained the same, and someone questioned them, then he and the Board could be in trouble.

As it turns out, at the August 1st meeting, Commissioner Pfeifer questioned whether they could go into Executive Session without an attorney. Maxwell said yes, the Board voted to do so, and they went… AFTER the meeting, an affidavit is signed by the Chairman (Jack Smith), which certifies what they talked about. Smith signed the affidavit which confirms they discussed a legal matter.

Now, fast forward a tiny bit.

Commissioner Pfeifer wasn’t comfortable with the situation. He decided to ask the State Attorney General (AG) whether it was or was not legal. There’s really no other entity to ask, as their office is the one responsible for enforcing the laws covering this issue.

Pfeifer got a letter back saying nope, that wasn’t legal, you guys broke the law, but we’re not going to do anything. Generally they have bigger fish to fry and they don’t like to get involved in local politics. Pfeifer provided a copy of the letters to and from the AG to the Board so they’d know they’d stepped over the legal line.

So, what’s a Board to do once they’re confronted with confirmation that they broke the law? They can “come clean”, say oops we goofed, own up and ask for forgiveness… or they could try to cover it up…

Maxwell opted for the second scenario and attempted to revise history.

On September 5th Maxwell recounted a fictitious scenario of the events that occurred on August 1st. He talks about pushing back from the microphone, moving away from the “bench” and being halfway down the ramp. He says he made comments while too far away saying it could be a legal item OR a personnel item and he asked the Board to change the records to reflect it was a personnel item rather than legal.

Some may not know that Maxwell is in a wheelchair. When he talks about being partway down the ramp, he’s referring to the ramp in the main Commission chambers where most meetings are held. Workshop meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month in the smaller boardroom around a table, not in the main chambers. There is not a ramp. Both the August 1st and September 5th meetings were Workshop meetings held in the boardroom.

When Maxwell refers to pushing away from the microphone and leaving the bench, he is also referring to the main Commission chambers where each Commissioner sits in front of their own microphone on dais (or bench).

He could not have made additional comments while moving away from the “bench” as he was sitting around a small table. The video of the August 1st meeting clearly shows that he was sitting next to Commissioner Pfeifer, he moved closer to the table after the meeting adjourned for Executive Session (not away) and he did not make any further comments.

False accounts aside, there’s another real clear problem with Maxwell’s version of revisionist history. Commission Chairman Jack Smith signed the affidavit AFTER the Executive Session stating they had discussed a LEGAL item. Irregardless of whether Maxwell’s twisting tale had happened, the entire group went into the meeting believing it was a LEGAL item they were going to discuss. They all heard Pfeifer’s question and Maxwell’s caustic response. Then, AFTER the meeting, the Chairman signed off on it being a legal matter they discussed.

Watch the video. Watch the body language. Listen with all of the above in mind. Watch the side-ways stares as Maxwell recounts his tale. Watch the fidgeting hands. While Maxwell may have been the point man on this one, I’d venture to say there was a little scrambling behind the scenes on how to handle the potentially hot breaking of state law. Did they really think they could revise history and that we wouldn’t be able to see the glaring discrepancies? They KNOW that the Fayette Front Page films all meetings. Were they hoping we wouldn’t get curious and take a look? Did they WANT to get caught or did they just assume they could get away with revisionist history?

Watch the video for yourself. Make your own decisions.

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