It seemed some were caught off guard at the start of the most recent meeting of the Polk County Board of Supervisors when Supervisor Doug Route made an announcement concerning replacing Board Chair Chris Nelson.
Two minutes into the meeting Route said he wanted to make a motion to nominate Jay Luke the Board Chair. “I have an opinion here from the Attorney General’s Office,” Route said.
Nelson asked Malia Malone, Corporation Counsel (who was logged into the meeting virtually) if that was the proper time for Route to make such a motion.
Route said, “It is not on the agenda, but they (The Attorney General’s Office) said it could be done at any time.”
Nelson asked, “Malia, do you have an opinion on Mr. Route?”
Malone replied, “It hasn’t been presented on the agenda. I heard Supervisor Route say he has an opinion from someone and it (the sound) cut out.”
Nelson asked Route, “You want to tell Malia what you have going on?”
“The Attorney General’s Office has been contacted about the two-thirds vote. He said it is not valid because we are only voting to create a new Board Chair,” responded Route.
Route said he had a five-page email from the Attorney General and he was planning on showing it to Malone that evening at the meeting.
Malone explained for health reasons she was appearing remotely, so she was not able to review any documents he had with him. She said if he forwarded the email to her, she would be happy to look it over.
“If the opinion is about whether or not it would need a two-thirds majority vote, that is a completely separate issue than whether or not it would be appropriate to even have something like that brought up and then voted on tonight,” Malone said.
She said nothing had been posted and there had been no Public Notice. “This is the first I am hearing that this is even a possibility,” Malone said.
She said she believed at that time it would be improper and a violation of the Open Meetings Law, but if Route forwarded it to her and it was something he wanted to see on a future meeting agenda, it is something she would be willing to look at.
Route said, “The Attorney General’s opinion is that it does not have to wait for another month and it only takes a simple majority because we are voting a new Board Chair not removal of the Board Chair.”
Malone responded, “It is my opinion based on the information I have that it would be a violation of the Open Meetings Law to have a vote like that on the floor when no one from the public would have been given any notice about something as major as changing the current County Chair.”
She then again encouraged Route to forward her the Attorney General’s email. “I would think something as important as that would have been forwarded to my office ahead of time,” said Malone.
She said the current Chair calling a Point of Order would be the only way to over-rule her recommendation.
Nelson said, “If that is what you guys want to propose, put it on the agenda next month.”
Route responded, “I will.”
Nelson then called on Supervisor Luke who said, “I’m surprised.”
Luke said he would like time to consult about the matter. “It is interesting,” said Luke.
Route said he didn’t have time to talk to Luke. “This all came together basically yesterday and today,” said Route.
Nelson said, “I think it would be proper if you have an idea, you want to make sure you do not have a walking quorum that you are discussing with other Supervisors, but you would go directly to Supervisor Luke about whether he wants the Chair or that you want to make a change. I would think you would want to give him the respect to talk to him before, so you got a month now.”
Nelson then said to Luke, “Hey, it’s a fun job Jay.” He then turned to Route and said, “Or maybe Doug, you want to do it?”
“Nope,” responded Route, to which Nelson responded, “Oh, O.K.”
Nelson has been Chair of the Board of Supervisors since April 21, 2020. He took the reins from Chair Dean Johansen, who chose not to run again for the Polk County Board of Supervisors. Nelson was nominated by Supervisor John Bonneprise and it passed by a unanimous vote.