Pfeifer knocks Chairman Smith for rail support, says commission broke law

Tue, 01/08/2008 - 4:59pm
By: John Thompson

Peter Pfeifer

It was not the smooth opening to the year the Fayette County Commission probably wanted.

Instead, the Jan. 2 meeting saw Commissioner Peter Pfeifer call out his fellow commissioners on an open meetings violation.

“The commission broke the law on Aug. 1,” he said.

Pfeifer was referring to an executive session that occurred during the Aug. 1 meeting without an attorney present. The commissioners said they were going into an executive session to discuss a legal issue and a real estate matter.

The problem, though, is the commissioners had no attorney present with whom to discuss the legal issue.

Pfeifer sought an opinion from the state Attorney General’s office and received one in early September.

“The attorney/client privilege only permits an executive session when the attorney for the commissioners is present and then only to discuss litigation. Further, it cannot be used when there is a mere threat of litigation, but the litigation must be ongoing or the government entity must show a realistic and tangible threat of legal action against it or its officer or employee,” wrote Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter.

After discovering the state was looking into the matter, the County Commission tried to fix the problem in early September.

Commissioner Eric Maxwell asked that the minutes for the Aug. 1 meeting be amended to reflect that the County Commission discussed real estate and personnel matters in executive session.

Maxwell said he remembered that at the Aug. 1 meeting he had left the dais and moved away from the microphone and said the legal issue was really a personnel issue.

The problem is the meeting was not held in the main commission meeting room, but in the smaller conference room, so there was no dais and microphone for Maxwell to leave.

Contacted later, Maxwell did admit the meeting took place in the smaller room, but said he was sure he mentioned the personnel issue.

The County Commission also voted unanimously to amend the legal affidavit it signed after the Aug. 1 meeting. The affidavit now reads the county discussed real estate and personnel issues, instead of real estate and a legal issue.

The minutes for the Aug. 1 meeting were never approved, and when they were placed on the Jan. 2 agenda, Pfeifer asked for the issue to be tabled until the county’s now in-house attorney could render an opinion.

But his motion died for lack of a second. Chairman Jack Smith said the minutes were an accurate reflection of what happened, and the other commissioners agreed and approved the minutes with Pfeifer voting against it.

Pfeifer also cast the lone vote against Chairman Jack Smith being re-elected as chairman. He alluded to statements made that did not represent the entire County Commission.

“Jack and Commissioner Robert Horgan praise this commission for a defined benefit retirement system for county employees. We don’t have one, yet. But they are two commissioners who are pushing this issue. I think they are 100 percent wrong. I think we should be looking out for the benefit of our citizens and taxpayers first, then the employees,” Pfeifer said in a letter to the editor, printed on Page A4.

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mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Tue, 01/08/2008 - 8:45pm.

You are flogging a dead pony. No one cares - except, I guess you. But please , realize this is a non-issue and let it go.

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