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ACC Commissioners quibble over quorum rules

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners returned to a familiar debate at a meeting Tuesday night – whether to change their rules to allow some legislation to pass with only six commissioners present. If successful, the measure would mean that ordinances could pass with as few as four votes.

Commissioners were skeptical about the change at their voting meeting last month, and one commissioner who spoke about the measure, District 9’s Ovita Thornton, remained so.

"I do not know of any voting meeting that had to be cancelled, since I've been on the commission, because a quorum was not present," Thornton said.

Mayor Kelly Girtz acknowledged that, but said attendance has been a problem at executive sessions, where the mayor and commission hear about and discuss issues like personnel and land purchases behind closed doors.

"It is a requirement that we have a quorum for any executive session, which as you noted, it is a non voting meeting but does require seven members currently, in order to just begin the meeting," Girtz said.

Thornton suggested that changing the charter, however, was not the best option.

"If you're saying that there were executive sessions that could not function, and if it's the same folk, that are missing those executive sessions, there needs to be a conversation before changing the charter," she said.

Commissioners will consider the charter change at their October 4 meeting. Because the proposal involves a change to the county’s charter, commissioners will have to approve the move at two sequential meetings in order for it to take effect. If the measure fails on October 4, it is essentially dead.