Cumberland County Mayor Brock Hill recently wrote a letter to the Chronicle questioning the actions of at least one commissioner and the rules and nominations committee for changing the county commission rules.

In September 2009 Hill was removed as chairman of the Cumberland County Commission after 15 years and was replaced with 9th District Commissioner Carmin Lynch.

In the letter, Hill states 1st District Commissioner Harry Sabine told fellow commissioners a fib in saying that Hill would not let him place an item on the monthly county commission agenda.

"Harry Sabine never asked me to place an item on the agenda. Nor did he ask the county clerk, who prepares the agenda and acts as secretary for the meetings. What Harry Sabine did was tell a deputy clerk to change the agenda by adding 'county attorney report' to the agenda. For those who may not know, the county attorney already attends all county commission meetings and gives reports.

"Any commissioner can place a resolution on the agenda without checking with the chairman, as long as they are willing to sign and sponsor the resolution. However, Commissioner Harry Sabine was not placing a resolution on the agenda. He wanted to change the agenda.  In order to do that, he needed to ask the chairman of the commission. He did not do that, choosing to tell a deputy clerk to make the change," Hill's letter states.

Hill said he informed the deputy clerk to remove the item from the agenda and have Sabine ask him to formally request the change.

"Harry Sabine never did that. Harry Sabine is the parliamentarian of the commission and knows the proper processes and protocol. Additionally, I e-mailed him to explain why his request was improper," Hill wrote.

In response Sabine said he requested with the clerk's office to have a county attorney's report added to the agenda in September 2009.

"Since there are so many legal cases ongoing I thought it appropriate we have a set item on the agenda in order to hear a regular, monthly report ... You know the county attorney has been there many times in the past and hasn't given a legal report," 1st District Commissioner Harry Sabine said. "I wanted that item added onto the agenda and it wasn't. There may have been others who tried to get stuff added."

Seventh District Commissioner Mike Harvel said there were things he wanted to see "come up before the commission" in the past when Hill was serving as chairman, but they never appeared.

Harvel was the commissioner who nominated Lynch to serve as chairman.

"To be honest I was surprised he won and there were enough votes," Harvel said.

Harvel would not elaborate other than to say there were some "issues" that had not come before the commission that he had wanted to see brought up for a while.

"I was also tired of things showing up (on the agenda) at the last minute and us having to vote on it that night," Harvel said.

Hill further states in his letter that Sabine is chairman of the rules and nominations committee — the committee which writes specific rules for the county commission to follow, including how county committees are appointed.

"In December, the county commission voted to change their own rules regarding those committee appointments to provide greater power to the commission in appointing committees.  What was the biggest change?  The committee voted to take the county mayor out of the process of appointing membership to the standing committees. Those are the committees that make decisions on your law enforcement, fire, ambulance, garbage disposal, and  schools," Hill wrote.

Sabine responded in saying the rules were changed and had to be changed to reflect a commissioner serving as chairman rather than the county mayor.

"Look, in all honesty we had met on the rules before this happened and we were already making some changes ... The county mayor didn't have the power to put a resolution on the agenda before and he does now. The county mayor didn't have a veto power before and he does now. Essentially, we gave him more power in that aspect. Before, the chairman always appointed the committees. It just happened that the county mayor was the chairman and now he isn't so that's a big part of the changes that had to be made in the rules," Sabine said.

Referring to the commission's rule changes Hill wrote, "In my opinion, that is too much power in the hands of a part time legislative body. The full time elected officials have big jobs with big responsibilities; some dictated by law and some by their own sincere desire to do positive things for our citizenry.  Having a county commission that is hostile to that premise serves no positive purpose. The commission needs to trust and work with, not against, the full-time, county-wide elected officials; rather than act on whims of emotion triggered by ego and a thirst for more power."

One change in the rules also provides for an extra stipend of $3,000 for the chairman of the county commission if the chairman is a commissioner. Lynch, who is now eligible for the additional compensation, has not accepted the extra money as chairman, according to the Cumberland County Finance Department.