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Saturday March 25th

Orange County Board of Commissioners examines advisory board requirements

Volunteer denied reappointment due to dual residency

Requirements for Orange County advisory board members are up for revision after a volunteer was denied reappointment.

County officials said May Becker, who holds residency in North Carolina and Florida, was not reappointed due to issues with her dual residency.

But Becker says she was denied a second term on the planning board because of her political beliefs.

“It wasn’t really a question of residency,” she said.

Becker said her hard line on the environment wasn’t welcomed by the commissioners and prevented her reappointment.

Becker said she told them that she would be interested in serving again.

Then, after she brought up her opinions on the environment, the county attorney repeatedly called and questioned her, she said.

But County Attorney John Roberts said Becker’s dual residency might have caused a conflict of interests, and that is why she was not reappointed.

County Commissioner Vice Chairman Steve Yuhasz said during the last two years the Orange County Board of Commissioners has been working to revise how it appoints people to advisory boards.

He said the board, which looks for members with diverse views, could begin to interview applicants and look into backgrounds.

The county attorney is working on a set of legal regulations and expectations for board members, such as the legal definition of residency for those who wish to sit on an Orange County advisory board, Yuhasz said.

Roberts said the commissioners have considered two residency definitions — members would have to either be a permanent resident or registered to vote in Orange County to be appointed.

County Manager Frank Clifton said Becker was on a board that is popular among volunteers.

Becker said Roberts asked her specifically about her Tampa, Fla., property after issues were raised with her residency status and her reappointment became uncertain.

She said the questions were irrelevant because she considers herself a North Carolina resident.

But Roberts said every question he asked her was relevant.

“It’s a serious question for the planning board because the county commissioners can’t have a resident of another state advising them on land usage,” Roberts said.

Becker said the “harassment” of questioning has not turned her away from public service.

“I wouldn’t say I’m in politics. I would say I care about my community,” Becker said.

“I was asked to be there to contribute something, and I feel that others have encouraged me to contribute to continue to do something in that direction.”

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