Board puts Hehn’s document requests to bed

At the February Town Board meeting, the Board of Commissioners again considered two items regarding document requests Commissioner Marc Hehn has made of the town.

His requests involved copies of the red-line version of the Hotwire contract and the expedition of printed copies of the Town Board agenda packets.

Red-line Documents

The term “redlining” commonly refers to the editing and negotiation process during document and business contract management, where contributors mark text and track changes collaboratively.

At last month’s meeting, Town Attorney Jay Coward said the red-line version of contract negotiations aren’t public documents because they aren’t the final version of the contract.

According to Coward, these are transitory documents. In regard to the Hotwire contract, Coward said he has not retained them.

However, Commissioner Hehn was not satisfied.

“Jay, you said the red-line version is not a public document, I don’t dispute that. But you got the email that says the town commissioners have the right to ask the Town Board to ask the Town Manager to share the red-line version,” said Commissioner Hehn. “So, I make the motion that the board ask the Town Manager to see if he can find, through the attorneys in Washington or attorneys in Raleigh or on the server, the red-line version of the contract. All I’m trying to do is get prepared for our March meeting because I foresee another problem on the horizon, and I want to be prepared.”

For clarification, Commissioner Amy Patterson asked for verification concerning the contract with Hotwire.

“We’ve already signed the contract with Hotwire, and it was not the red-lined version, right?” she asked.

Mayor Pat Taylor said “yes.”

“Those are transient documents – drafts — and they do not have to retained and we don’t retain them, and we don’t even know if the lawyers retained them,” he said.

But Commissioner Hehn persisted.

“I have the right to ask for them,” he said. “The red-line version is the negotiation between the lawyers. And I am trying to see what the conversation was because there are some things in the contract that I have questions about.”

There wasn’t a second to Hehn’s motion to request Town Manager Josh Ward to track down the red-line version of the Hotwire negotiations which usually means a motion dies for lack of a second.

However, Mayor Taylor said the rules of North Carolina still allow a vote without a second if the board of commissioners is inclined to do so. So, he called the question anyway and the vote was 4-1 to not make that request of the Town Manager.

“So that’s a no,” said Taylor.

Printing Documents for Hehn

More than a decade ago, the town went to paperless electronic communications, particularly for Town Board Agenda packets which can be more than 300 pages.

To that end, the town purchases IPads for commissioners. The mayor reiterated that position at the January meeting in an effort to stop the need for copies to be printed for Commissioner Hehn.

Commissoner Hehn said he had health issues that prevented him from comfortably reading an IPad so he requested that the agenda packet continue to be printed out for him. In January, the board voted unanimously to make that accommodation for him.

However, prior to the February meeting, Hehn complained that the other commissioners got the agenda packet many days before the upcoming meeting whereas he gets the printed copy a few days before.

At the end of February’s meeting, the mayor offered a solution to Hehn getting the printed copy of the agenda at the same time as those who receive it electronically. He said his suggestion would alleviate the disconnect administration has right now of printing the packet at the office and Hehn having to come get it.

“The board is willing to make accommodations for you for printed documents and I am not trying to stop that, but we need to look at things creatively,” he said. “My proposal is that the town purchase an Epson Eco printer for $600 for high-volume printing where you can print thousands of color copies. Included would be a ream of paper, or a box of paper. We could provide this for you and then you can have that set up at your office at your home so when you do get the electronic version emailed you can automatically print those documents. You can print them right then and there.”

Mayor Taylor asked Hehn if he would be willing to accept that offer. But Hehn said no.

“We have a good system now. Print it and I will pick it up,” he said. “But actually, some of the type is so small I was going to talk to Josh about that and you have to comply with the law.”

Mayor Taylor said the board was complying with the law and was offering a reasonable accommodation to Hehn.

Attorney Coward agreed. “That is a reasonable accommodation,” he said.

The board agreed in theory, but Commissioner John Dotson said he would like to do more research on a printer.

“I am for this, but $600 is a huge price for a printer,” he said.

The motion passed 4-1, with Hehn dissenting, to move forward with purchasing Commissioner Hehn a printer after researching for a less expensive one.

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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