Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who can I contact if I have questions about county social services boards?

Social services board members, social services directors, county commissioners, county managers, and citizens who have questions about county social services boards can contact faculty member Aimee Wall (wall@sog.unc.edu or 919-843-4957). Other sources of information include your county social services director and the state DHHS Division of Social Services (919-733-3055).

 

2. What is the North Carolina Association of County Boards of Social Services?

The North Carolina Association of County Boards of Social Services is a voluntary association of county social services boards, board members, and other persons who are interested in social services in North Carolina. Click here for more information about the NCACBSS.

3. Who appoints county social services board members? Who should I contact if I'm interested in serving on the county social services board?

County social services board members are appointed by each county's board of county commissioners, by the state's Social Services Commission, and by members of the county social services board. If you are interested in serving on your county's social services board, you should contact your county social services director, the chair of your county's social services board, your county manager or the clerk of your county's board of county commissioners, or the state's Social Services Commission. If you are seeking an appointment through the state's Social Services Commission, you will be required to complete this application form.

4. What are the qualifications for appointment to the county social services board?

A person who is appointed to the county social services board must be a bona fide resident of the county. A county social services board member also must meet any additional qualifications for appointment or service that are established by the board of county commissioners and that are not inconsistent with other state or federal laws.

5. Are county social services board members prohibited from engaging in political activities, contributing to or being involved in politcal campaigns, endorsing candidates, or running for political office?

No. Although federal and state laws limit the political activities of county social services employees, these laws do not apply to county social services board members who are not employees of the county social services department.                                                                                                  

6. May an owner or employee of a child day care center that receives subsidized child day care payments from the county social services department be appointed to and serve on the county social services board?

Yes. It is not an unlawful conflict of interest for a county social services board member to accept payment for goods, services, or assistance that he or she provides to needy individuals or families under a federal or state public assistance or social services program if the program is open to general participatoin on a nondiscriminatory basis by other providers or suppliers in the same profession or occupation, the social services board, director, and employees have no control over which provider or supplier of goods, services, or assistance is selected by the needy individuals or families, the board member receives the same payment for the goods, services, or assistance as other providers of the same goods, services, or assistance, and the board member does not take any part in approving payment for the goods, services, or assistance that he or she provides. Nor is it an unlawful conflict of interest for a county social services board member to accept payment for goods, services or assistance that he or she provides to, or on behalf of, the county social services department as long as the county social services board is not involved in making or administering the contract under which the payment is made and the board member does not use or attempt to use his or her public office to influence the making or administration of a contract from which he or she or his or her spouse will derive a direct benefit.                                         

6. May a person be appointed to the county social services board if a member of his or her family is an employee of the county social services department?

Yes. State law does not disqualify a person from being appointed to the county social services board because a member of his or her family is an employee of the county social services department.                                                            

7. What does the county social services board do?

The county social services board is required to meet at least once each month. The board is responsible for appointing the county social services director, evaluating the director's performance, dismissing the director if his or her job performance is unsatisfactory or he or she engages in unacceptable personal conduct, assisting the director in planning the county social services budget and presenting the proposed social services budget to the board of county commissioners, appointing one member of the county social services board, establishing local policies for public assistance and social services programs that are consistent with federal and state requirements, providing general oversight of the county social services department, and advising local authorities with respect to social conditions of the community.                           

8. Where can I get more information about the role and responsibilities of county social services board members?

 

Additional information about the role and responsibilities of the county social services board and social services board members is available on this web site and in Serving on the County Board of Social Services.                                     

9. Are social services board members required to take an oath of office?

Yes. A county social services board member (other than a county commissioner who has already taken an oath of office as a county commissioner and is serving ex officio on the social services board) must take an oath of office. The appointee must swear or affirm to faithfully discharge his or her duties as a social services board member and to support and maintain the constitutions and laws of the United States and North Carolina. The oath may be taken at any time between the board member's appointment and his or her assumption of office. The oath may be administered anywhere in the State by a judge, magistrate, clerk of superior court, state legislator, city or county clerk, mayor, chair of the board of county commissioners, notary public, or other specified public official. A written copy of the oath signed by the board member must be filed with the clerk of the board of county commissioners. If a social services board member is reappointed for a second term, he or she is required take a second oath of office.                                   

10. I am a county social services board member and my term of office expires on June 30. What happens if I am not reappointed and no one else is appointed to take my place on the board? May I attend and vote at the July board meeting?

You remain on the social services board as a "holdover" member until you are reappointed or someone else is appointed to take your place. If no action has been taken regarding your reappointment or replacement before the board's July board meeting, you should attend the meeting and participate and vote at the meeting to the same extent as you did before the end of your term.            

11. I serve as the "fifth" (or "third") member of a county social services board. May term ends on June 30. May I participate and vote in the board's decision to reappoint me for a second term or to appoint someone else to take my place on the board?

Unless prohibited by your board's rules of procedure, you may participate in the board's discussions and deliberations regarding your reappointment or replacement but you may not vote regarding your own reappointment or with respect to the appointment of someone else as the "fifth" (or "third" member of the board.                                                                                                 

12. What happens if our social services board is unable to agree regarding the appointment of the board's "fifth" (or "third") member

 

The "third" member of a three-member board or the "fifth" member of a five-member board must be appointed by a majority vote of the other board members. On a three-member board, this requires a unanimous vote by the other two members. On a five-member board, this requires a vote of three of the other four members. If a majority of the other board members have not been able to agree regarding the appointment of the "third" or "fifth" board member within a reasonable amount of time and it doesn't appear that they will be able to reach an agreement with respect to the appointment, the board should report this, through the board chair or the county social services director, to the senior resident superior court judge and ask the judge to appoint the "third" or "fifth" member. The judge may appoint any qualified person he or she chooses and is not limited to the persons who were nominated or considered by the social services board.                                      

13. What does it mean for a county commissioner to serve "ex officio" on the county social services board?

A county commissioner serves ex officio on the county social services board if he or she is appointed to the social services board by the board of county commissioners by virtue of his or her office as a county commissioner. A county commissioner who serves ex officio on the county social services board has the right and obligation to participate fully in all of the board's deliberations and to vote with respect to all of the board's decisions. A county commissioner who serves ex officio on the county social services board, however, is not subject to the same term limits and multiple office holding restrictions as social services board members who are not county commissioners and ex officio social services board members.                                                                      

14. I was elected as a county commissioner in November, 2004. The board of county commissioners appointed me to the county social services board in July, 2005. When I ran for re-election as a county commissioner in November, 2006, I lost. Does this affect my continued service on the social services board?

No. All county social services board members, including county commissioners who serve as ex officio members of the county social services board, serve three-year terms (unless they are appointed to serve the unexpired term of a social services board member who has died, resigned, or been removed from the board). The term on the social services board of a county commissioner who serves ex officio on the county social services board is not concurrent with his or her term as a county commissioner and is not affected the termination of his or her term as a county commissioner. So, if you were appointed to the social services board in July, 2005 (and your appointment was not to fill an unexpired term of a social services board member who died, resigned, or was removed from the board), you may continue to serve on the county social services board until June 30, 2008 (though you should take an oath of office as a social services board member). Of course, you also may choose to resign your position on the county social services board if you are not interested in continuing to serve on the social services board or want to give the board of county commissioners an opportunity to appoint another county commissioner to take your place on the social services board.                                               

15. One of our county social services board members recently moved to a neighboring county. May she continue to serve on our county's board of social services?

The answer to this question isn't entirely clear. Some people might argue that because state law requires that a person who is appointed to the county social services board be a bona fide resident of the county, a social services board member who ceases to be a bona fide county resident is disqualified from continuing to serve on the county social services board or "forfeits" his or her position on the board. Others might argue that the county residency requirement is a requirement that applies at the time a person is appointed to the board but doesn't apply with respect to his or her continued service on the board if he or she was a county resident at the time he or she was appointed. If, however, the board member's moving to another county prevents him or her from adequately discharging his or her duties as a social services board member, the board may ask him or her to resign. If the board member refuses to resign, the board may ask the state Social Services Commission or the board of county commissioners to remove the person from the board for "good cause." If the board member who has moved and refuses to resign is the "third" or "fifth" board member, the other members of the social services board may remove the person from the board for "good cause."                       

16. One of our county social services board members has missed a number of social services board meetings. May the social services board appoint someone else to take his place on the board and serve the remainder of his term?

Failure to attend social services board meetings may constitute "good cause" for removing a person from the county social services board. The social services board's authority to remove a person from the board, however, extends only to the "third" or "fifth" member of the board. If a board member who was appointed by the state Social Services Commission or the board of county commissioners fails to attend social services board meetings, the board should ask the Social Services Commission or the board of county commissioners to remove the board member. The social services board, however, may establish reasonable policies or rules governing attendance at social services board meetings.                                                                      

17. How many social services board members must be present to constitute a quorum at a social services board meeting?

Because state law does not answer this question, the answer probably depends on how quorum is defined by the social services board's rules of procedure. In general, however, a quorum should never be less than two members of a three-member board or three members of a five-member board.                      

18. Is the county social services board responsible for approving or disapproving the county social services budget?

No. Although many county social services boards vote to "approve" the proposed county social services budget, state law says that the board's role is to assist the social services director in preparing the proposed budget and to present the proposed social services budget to the board of county commissioners (in practice, this is often done through the county manager). The board of county commissioners has the ultimate authority to approve the county budget for social services and the county social services director is responsible for administering the social services budget that has been approved by the board of county commissioners.                                             

19. Does the county social services board have the authority to hear grievances or appeals by employees of the county social services department regarding personnel matters, hiring, firing, discipline, promotion, demotion, etc?

Yes, but only if the board is granted authority to hear these cases under the county's personnel ordinance and procedures. More importantly, though, the county social services director, not the social services board, has sole legal authority for hiring, supervising, promoting, demoting, disciplining, and firing employees of the county social services department.                                        

20. Does the state Department of Health and Human Services have a form that county social services boards must use in evaluating the job performance of the county social services director?

No. State law does not expressly require the county social services board to evaluate the director's performance or mandate the use of any particular form when the board evaluates the director's performance.                                      

21. Can the county social services board increase the salary of the county social services director?

Yes, but only if the increase in the director's salary is approved by the board of county commissioners and is within the pay schedule for county employees adopted by the board of county commissioners.                                               

22. Can the county social services board hold a "closed" meeting without giving public notice of the meeting?

No. The county social services board is subject to the state's Open Meetings Law and must give public notice of all of the board's official meetings, even if all of the board's business at a meeting will be conducted in a closed session that is permitted under the Open Meetings Law.