CCCC Bill shifts power to appoint college’s board of trustees

Apr. 04, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

Compounding controversy generated by a separate piece of legislation, Rep. Mike Stone, a Republican who represents parts of Lee and Harnett counties in the N.C. House of Representatives, introduced a bill Wednesday that would change how members of the Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees are appointed.

The Lee County Board of Commissioners, the Lee County Board of Education and the governor’s office now each get to appoint four trustees, and the Chatham and Harnett County commissioners get two appointments apiece. Stone’s bill, which will go to the House Education Committee for review, would eliminate all of the school board’s power to appoint and would give it to the Lee County Commissioners.

Stone’s other controversial bill also involved the Lee County Board of Education (as well as the Sanford City Council), and would require candidates for school board and municipal elections to start competing in partisan races instead of non-partisan ones. Stone reportedly did not contact members of either board, or his fellow lawmaker Rep. Deb McManus, a Democrat whose constituency includes the majority of Sanford.

Likewise, the chairmen of two of the boards involved in House Bill 512 — Lynn Smith from the school board and Julian Philpott from the CCCC trustees — said Stone had not made any effort to contact them before filing the bill.

Philpott declined to comment on the bill as he hadn’t spoken with Stone yet.

Smith, however, did have something to say about the bill, which would give the Lee County Commissioners the power to appoint eight of the board’s 16 members.

“I would just label it as another power grab by our county commissioners,” Smith said, adding that he had heard rumors that such a bill might be in the works, at the behest of the commissioners. He continued, “...  I hear these things and think, ‘There’s no way that could happen,’ but then it does.”

Charlie Parks, chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, said the only intent of the bill is to help Lee County Schools focus its operations.

He said Wednesday afternoon that he hadn’t seen the bill itself, but he did have informal discussions regarding the bill with Stone, as well as other other commissioners whom he declined to name.

“The schools needs to concentrate on getting the school levels up,” Parks said. “... They need to be concentrating on students’ education. They have too much involvement in other areas.”

Smith, however, said he believes splitting the power of appointment among multiple groups gives the board of trustees, as a whole, a broader range of people with more diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Philpott said that for his board, the bottom line is that every single member has to make sure that all the campuses — the college has locations in Sanford, Lillington, Pittsboro and Siler City — are doing well, no matter who appoints them or where they live.

“The current board that we have right now, I’m proud of their dedication,” said Philpott, who has served for 8 years as an appointee of the Lee County Commissioners. “... Every one of them takes his obligations seriously.”

Stone did not respond to a request for comment.

Herald Reporter Anna Johnson contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: Sanford Herald Editor R.V. Hight is a member of the CCCC Board of Trustees, appointed by the Lee County Commissioners. He was not involved in the writing of this article.