The York County Council approved a plan Monday to create a nine-member Culture and Heritage Commission that would retain management of the county's museums and their staffs.
That's a different track than the council took last month, when it voted to give county administrators direct authority over the museums.
The commission - which now has 21 members - would have a representative from each of the seven council districts. The two remaining positions could be chosen at-large or reserved for ex-officio members.
The chairman of the commission would be chosen by the County Council.
More specifics will be determined when the council debates the motion it passed on a 6-0 vote Monday. A second reading on the motion likely will come April 4. Three readings and a public hearing are required before the changes are official.
Monday's vote, council members said, was a chance for the council and the commission to move forward together and end years of dissension over financial and personnel management of the museums, its relationship with the museum's foundation and a costly failed deal for a new riverfront museum.
Last month, the council opted to go in a different direction, voting to transfer authority over the museum's finances and operations to county administrators.
To keep things "clean," chairman Britt Blackwell said, the council will table that option when it meets March 21 and move forward with the compromise approved Monday.
Efforts to reach a compromise started shortly after the Feb. 21 meeting, Blackwell said. The wording and scope of Monday's motion was not finalized until just minutes before the beginning of Monday's meeting.
Council members discussed what to put forward Monday and what could be determined at a later date.
Council member Curwood Chappell made the motion for the nine-member board.
"Don't change anything tonight," Chappell admonished his fellow council members.
Nothing was officially added to Chappell's motion, but council members talked of more financial oversight, including line-item veto of the commission's budget, as well as consolidating some similar functions such as human resources with the county's administration.
Van Shields, director of the Culture and Heritage Museums, declined to comment on the vote.
During Monday's public comment period, Jim Johnston, chairman of the Culture and Heritage Commission, said the 19 current members of the 21-member commission - there are two vacancies on the board - are willing to resign so the issue can move forward as long as the employees remain under the control of the commission.
None of the current board members will be considered for the new board, Blackwell said. He wants to start with a "clean slate."
One motion approved Feb 21 will move forward on March 31, Blackwell said - efforts to terminate the memorandum of understanding between the county and the Culture and Heritage Commission and the Culture and Heritage Foundation, which raises money for the commission.
A failed deal to develop 400 acres along the Catawba River has been the center of much of the financial controversy. The land was donated by Jane Spratt McColl in 1998 for a new county museum.
The foundation sought a development partner. That deal soured and the museum's foundation is trying to sell a portion of the land to pay $3.78 million it owes to its development partner.
State Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, said the land deal and subsequent actions were like nothing he has seen in his career as a developer.
"You have a property that was debt-free and now has a $3.8 million debt without any improvements," Norman told the council. "I've never seen anything like this. Money was spent and there is nothing to show for it."
Norman encouraged the council to hire an independent attorney, accountant and developer to review the deal.
On Feb. 21, the council directed County Manager Jim Baker to request a variety of financial information from the commission and the foundation. No deadline has been sent for receipt of the information, Baker said.