County looks to re-organize EDC board

Barnwell County Council approved the second reading of an ordinance that gives the municipalities in the county more control over the county's Economic Development Commission during the regular February meeting. And language in the ordinance that raises legal questions will be removed.
The ordinance, which needs one more vote of approval before it takes effect, says the communities of Barnwell, Blackville and Williston will each pick one member to be on the commission's seven-member board. Hilda, Elko, Kline and Snelling will jointly nominate one person to the board and county council will choose three people - one from each of the county's three school districts. County Council will pick the board's chairperson.
The ordinance states all nominations are subject to the consent of county council.
The ordinance also states that until the new board is chosen, the members of Barnwell County Council will "sit on the Economic Development Commission's Board as part of their inherent duties as members of Barnwell County Council in an ex officio voting capacity."
That sounds a lot a like the dual-office holding situation county council got themselves involved in with the Barnwell County Hospital Board - which led to a lawsuit against county council being heard by the state Supreme Court. In that case, the court ruled council members were in violation of the state's constitution.
After the Feb. 10 meeting, the county's attorney, J.D. Mosteller, said the new ordinance is not the same situation as the hospital-board case and referenced the Supreme Court's ruling on that case for his justification.
A note in the Supreme Court ruling says there is an exception to the dual-office holding law if the board an officer sits on shares the same responsibilities and power with the officer's official position. So, if a county council member has responsibilities involving economic development in his official position as a county council member, then he could be on the EDC in an ex officio position without violating the dual-office holding prohibition.
Ex officio means "by virtue of one's position or status."
After speaking to The People-Sentinel about the situation, County Council Chairman Freddie Houston reviewed the language in question in the ordinance. Monday, Houston said the language in question will be taken out before the final reading.
The third reading is currently set for county council's next regular meeting March 11.