Guilford County isn’t saying why the Board of Commissioners has quickly called a special meeting to meet with Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne, but the board is now scheduled for an hour-long session that will take place behind closed doors on Thursday, August 19.
It’s not clear what the subject of the discussion will be, but, lately, almost all of the conversations that the county commissioners have had with Payne have revolved around a mask mandate for county residents.
The August 19 closed session is very interesting for a number of reasons.
First, the meeting was called very quickly. The county legally has 48 hours to call a meeting that isn’t labeled as an “emergency” meeting, and the county didn’t quite make it in time. The email announcing the meeting was sent to media at 4:46 p.m. on Tuesday – so, technically, it was 16 minutes too late for a 4:30 p.m. meeting on Thursday.
The closed session will be held prior to the board’s regular open meeting, which is supposed to start at 5:30 p.m. that night.
Second, the meeting is being held in the commissioner’s chambers on the second floor of the Old Guilford County Courthouse in downtown Greensboro. In the past, when the county commissioners have held closed sessions before a regular meeting, they’ve almost always held them in the Blue Room on the first floor of the Old Courthouse or on the third floor of the county-owned BB&T building.
The commissioners sometimes meet with the county attorney in private to discuss lawsuits against the county. There have been threats of lawsuits against Guilford County over a mask mandate the Guilford County Board of Commissioners is in the process of implementing. However, at least as of Monday, August 16, no lawsuit had been filed against the county over the mask mandate.
The county commissioners sometimes meet with Payne in closed session to discuss a personnel issue. However, when that happens, the stated reason is to “discuss a personnel issue.” The stated reason for the Thursday mystery meeting is for “the purpose of consulting with the County Attorney; and to conduct any other necessary business.”
The specific general statute cited to justify closing this meeting reads as follows: “To consult with an attorney employed or retained by the public body in order to preserve the attorney-client privilege between the attorney and the public body, which privilege is hereby acknowledged.”
In some cases, after a closed session, the commissioners take and action that reveals the nature of the conversation, however, in other cases, no clues are provided.