So what does a county do when three of its commissioners are facing a lawsuit for violating the state’s open meetings laws?

It votes to use taxpayer money to defend those commissioners, of course.

The Lee County Board of Commissioners Commissioners approved a measure this week that would allow the board to spend public money to pay for attorneys for the three commissioners named in a lawsuit filed by a citizen over an alleged violation of the open meetings law.

According to a written summary of Monday’s meeting, the board “(a)pproved outside legal counsel and funding for such legal services for the individual named Commissioners in the Calendine vs. Lee County, lawsuit.”

A video of the meeting posted on the county’s website does not include the action. Sources have told The Rant that the vote took place after a closed session at the end of the meeting. The lawsuit names the Board of Commissioners as a defendant, as well as Chairman Charlie Parks, Commissioner Andre Knecht and Commissioner Kirk D. Smith individually.

Neil Yarborough, an attorney with Yarborough, Winters & Neville of Fayetteville, has been representing the county board to date. At Monday’s meeting, the board also swore in Kerry Schmid as the new county attorney. Schmid was hired by the board in 2012, but only recently became licensed to practice law in North Carolina.

It is currently unknown whether Parks, Knecht and Smith will use taxpayer funds to hire attorneys now that they’ve been allowed to do so by the board, which voted unanimously to approve the measure.

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