UPDATE TO THE STORY, MARCH 21, 2023 — At this morning’s meeting, County Commissioners opted not to remove Victoria Turner from the Planning Commission — not that they legally could because that would have required a public hearing, which is different from a business session with constituent participation, and 14-days prior notice.
Chairman Wendell Koontz told Turner that the board had nothing to do with bringing the charges of misconduct and non performance but, rather, those charges had been brought by members of the Planning Commission. He further expressed concern about Turner’s purported behavior but did not address any of her allegations about possible illegal activity by the PC. Koontz told Turner that the PC is an autonomous commission and the board has no control over them other than to appoint and remove members.
One of the PC members who submitted a letter to Commissioners requesting Turner’s removal, Steve Schrock, spoke at the meeting confirming his belief that Turner had behaved in an disruptive and inappropriate manner.
Several residents spoke in support of Turner and cited instances where the PC might be afoul of their bylaws. For example, at least two citizens told Commissioners that three PC members live inside municipalities and questioned their appointments citing PC bylaws requiring each member to live in unincorporated Delta County.
ORIGINAL STORY —
JOANN KALENAK, DCCR SENIOR BLOGGER — Strange things are happening with the County’s Planning Commission (PC).
First, the PC’s latest certified Land Use Code (Nov. 16, 2022), which contained several revisions, was voted down by the Board of County Commissioners after huge community outcry about, in many cases, the need for codes at all.
Next, the Planning Commission voted to elect Tom Kay chair for a third term, which violated their bylaws. At the time, planning commissioners believed that the LUC provided a loophole in the case were no one else stepped up to be chair.
“The PC By-laws limit the number of successive terms that a member can serve. It was initially interpreted that TK [Tom Kay] could serve an additional year since no one else wanted (was willing) to serve as Chair,” County Planner Carl Holm told DCCR in an email.
Holm continued, ”The LUC gives PC authority to determine, which they did, and the LUC is Board policy which takes precedence over by-laws. However, it has since been determined that is not the case, and the PC made their bylaws more restrictive than the Board. This made TK’s appointment null/void so the Vice Chair (Jacob) serves as Chair.”
Victoria Turner, the commission’s newest member, however, did offer herself up, but was not nominated since this was her very first meeting and at least one member noted her lack of the experience.
Turner later told fellow commissioners and a very large crowd of residents that Commissioner Don Suppes had already informed her that he’d planned to vote against any code changes. This came as an obvious surprise to several PC members since they were working that night to rehash selected elements of the code — elements that County Commissioners asked them to work out.
Later, after in-staff communications and Turner’s objections about not following the PC’s by-laws, Kay suddenly disappeared from the PC’s executive roster and recently elected Vice Chair, Jacob Gray, automatically moved into the chair’s slot.
Now, the plot thickens. In a highly unusual public action, County Commissioners plan to discuss the removal of Turner for “misconduct and nonperformance” at Tuesday’s Board meeting. An anonymous source told DCCR that several PC members submitted letters of complaint about Turner asking for her removal.
In the meantime, several residents are rallying around Turner as they believe she is being ousted for calling out her fellow commissioners for not following the rules. Turner, herself, is alleged to have put out a Facebook post asking for support. The original post appears to have been deleted.
Here’s an excerpt of what others have shared:
From the original post (Victoria Turner):
Friends and neighbors please, please read this… I’m in desperate need of help and support from my community right now.
I’m currently a member of the Delta County Planning Commission and have only been for a few weeks.
If you’re unsure what the PC is- it’s a body of public volunteers that draft and vote on laws that restrict or allow development in the unincorporated areas of Delta county.
Upon joining I quickly realized that no member of the Commission seemed to be following the same set of laws- so I took the initiative of reading our bylaws as well as, all of the state statutes regarding the planning commissions. I realized we were in violation of a number of them and that I had been lied to by my fellow commissioners.
So on March 8th I asked the question “what laws govern us as a local government body?” Not only could no one in the room answer my question but I was quickly shut down, insulted, and ridiculed for pursuing an answer to this question.
Now, I was just informed today, that the Board of County Commissioners will be taking a vote this Tuesday the 21st at 8:30 am at 560 Dodge Street to remove me from the planning commission and press charges of Misconduct on me ,which will permanently be a part of my record.
Is it really misconduct to ask what laws the commissioners follow and that we abide by them?
This is not the first time they have removed members for questioning legalities within the commission (interestingly all of which have been women), but it will be the first time they are trying to press charges.
I understand not all of you will be able to help but please consider just showing up. If nothing else you’ll leave with a greater idea of what is going on in our local government. And I can promise you it is astounding.
The people making laws for us to follow think that they are above the laws themselves. They repeatedly say that though I may be correct in the accusation of them breaking the laws- they are going to do it anyways and if someone wants to hold them accountable they can do so in court at a later date.
County Commissioners will meet tomorrow, March 21 at 8:30am. Access the agenda and register to attend virtually.