Brown, Horgan differ on ‘settlement’ offered to NAACP in district voting case
Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown contended this week that last year three county commissioners approved offering a settlement that would have enacted district voting in time for the November 2012 elections.
Brown contends the settlement, which he did not approve because he opposes district voting, was ultimately rejected by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which has advocated in a federal lawsuit for a district voting format to replace Fayette’s current at-large voting process.
Brown’s contention, however, is challenged by former Commissioner Robert Horgan, who argues that he and former commissioners Lee Hearn and Herb Frady never proposed to settle on a change for district voting but rather had agreed to offer to the NAACP a proposal to adopt a five-district map that kept the at-large voting process.
“We never made any deal for something that would involve district voting,” Horgan said.
Hearn declined to speak about the matter citing county policy that requires commissioners to avoid speaking about executive session matters without a majority vote of the board to allow such.
The battle over at-large and district voting is fought largely along racial lines but also along party lines in many respects. The NAACP has contended in its lawsuit that at-large voting is discriminatory and prevents Fayette’s black population from electing the candidate of their choice.
The suit contends that a black resident has never been elected to either the board of education or the board of commissioners. At-large voting proponents, however, point to the repeated election of former Chief Magistrate Charles R. Floyd, who was initially appointed to office in the early 2000s before he was re-elected to the countywide post before his unexpected death.
District voting would require residents to vote for just one of the five members on the board of education and the county commission, whereas under the current at large voting format all voters may cast ballots for all five seats on both governing bodies.
Brown in his comments was incredulous that the NAACP would have turned down a proposal that would have enacted district voting. He also noted that he advocated the creation of a three-district map that would have appeased the NAACP and also created two at large posts, one commissioner’s seat and one chairman’s seat. Doing so would ensure that voters in every district could have a shot at electing a majority to the five-member county commission, Brown said.
Brown, a former member of the local NAACP who parted ways with the group over accusations of racial discrimination lodged in letters to the editor back in 2005, said he still has friends in the organization and that he got the permission of his fellow county commissioners to have a meeting with the local NAACP without lawyers present earlier this year.
“They refused to meet with me,” Brown said.
Brown said he has taken some flack from county residents who question why the county commission has fought the district voting lawsuit. Those residents are typically unaware of Brown’s attempts to meet with the NAACP, he said.
Brown said when he was a NAACP member, he enjoyed being engaged in that community. But his involvement ended when letter-writers crying racism threw Brown under the bus, ironically over a push back then for district voting.