When citizens are appointed to local boards, they should be allowed to serve their terms, as long as they're not misbehaving or failing to participate. Their positions on the board should not be jeopardized because of how they decide to vote on specific issues.
This concept is clear to those who view the controversial proposed 120-megawatt Lone Oak Solar Farm in northern Madison County objectively. The solar energy generating project would be a $110 million investment by a company called Invenergy.
It's also clear that the three-member Madison County commissioners — specifically, the two-person voting bloc of Kelly Gaskill and Mike Phipps — are trying to manipulate the county Board of Zoning Appeals' vote on the solar farm.
Five members — three appointed by commissioners, one by county council and one by the county plan commission — comprise the BZA.
In May, the board had approved by a 3-1 vote a special-use request for the solar farm that included a 500-foot setback from nonparticipating property owners.
Later, it was learned that BZA board member Beth VanSickle, who voted in favor of the special use, didn't reside in or own property in the county, a requirement for board members. The vote was invalidated, and the plan commission, which had appointed VanSickle, removed her from the board and replaced her with David Kane.
The decision, in this case, is defensible, given that VanSickle didn't meet criteria for BZA membership.
The commissioners then set their sights on two of their board appointees who had not voted against the solar farm special use — John Simmermon and Mary Jane Baker.
The commissioners promptly removed Simmermon and replaced him with Cody Bohlander. Then they set up a special commissioners meeting to remove Baker, who had recused herself from the solar farm vote. The July meeting, though, was delayed when it was discovered that it hadn't been advertised in time to satisfy open public meeting laws.
The commissioners' third appointment to the board is Don Pine, who cast the dissenting vote against the the solar farm's special-use request in May. Interestingly, the commissioners have given no indication that they intend to dismiss him from the BZA.
Clearly, the commissioners are playing politics with the board, manipulating it for an Aug. 29 vote against the solar farm.
It's a classic case of politics driving government decisions.