Brown: County Commission votes $1.5 million in off-agenda items

Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown.

New commissioner slams 3 holdover members for voting on items without any public notice

The Fayette County Commission last year voted on $1.5 million in revenue and spending decisions without listing them on a meeting agenda to notify the public, according to new Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown.

Beyond failing to keep the public informed, the commission may have violated the state’s Open Meetings law, Brown claims.

Of the more significant assertions from Brown is that the commission spent $579,000 to fund employee “pay for performance” raises at an Oct. 28 meeting without listing them as a separate agenda item.

However, the raises were discussed as part of an agenda item entitled “further discussion from a previous request from staff concerning current account and fund balances for fiscal year 2010.”

The other large chunk of the $1.5 million calculated by Brown involved not a spending decision, but a revenue decision that could lead to as much as $750,000 for the county over 15 years. On Aug. 26 the commission voted to renew a lease agreement with Pinnacle Towers, a company that manages one of the county’s telecommunication towers.

That agreement provides between $35,000 and $50,000 a year in revenue for the county, according to county staff. Brown aggregated at a maximum value of $750,000, which is half of the $1.5 million total which he alleges the commission voted on without listing the matters as agenda items.

The existing lease agreement with Pinnacle Towers had another three years remaining on its lease “so there was certainly no rush,” to approve the agreement, Brown said in a news release.

Between the $579,000 spent on employee raises and the $750,000 in revenue from the celltowers, those two figures account for 88.6 percent, some $1.32 million of Brown’s $1.5 million calculation.

At least several of the matters cited by Brown were actually discussed at a previous meeting of the county commission, according to county staff. Others involved expenditures that were considered urgent, such as $22,207 for repair to a road department excavator in the middle of the road work season. Other expenditures were of the smaller variety such as $5,000 for replacement of carpet at the Fayette County Historical Society’s building.

Brown is using the figures to simultaneously criticize three of his fellow commissioners and also ask for their support to adopt a requirement that would force all matters to be listed at least 24 hours prior to a meeting before they may be voted upon by the commission.

“I along with a significant number of constituents have very little confidence that Chairman (Herb) Frady and Commissioners (Robert) Horgan and (Lee) Hearn will perform to legal and ethical standards since they were responsible for the 2010 misdeeds and they refused to embrace the minimal 24 hour notice proposal,” Brown wrote. “Their actions amount to nothing more than sneaky politics, promoting lawlessness and the unprofessional behavior is a black eye for Fayette County.”

CowetaBoardMember
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Georgia Open Meetings Act

Georgia state law prohibits this kind of behavior. Under the Georgia Open Meetings Act, officials are required to put any item that is expected to be voted on or even discussed on the agenda. It is a violation of Georgia state law not to do this and a call to the attorney general's office should be made.

The Coweta county commissioners are under fire from the Georgia state attorney general who has recommended criminal misdemeanor charges be filed against commissioner Paul Poole and former commissioner Randolph Collins. Collins brought up the topic of his cousin's political opponent in a county commissioner's meeting accusing him of violating the business license laws. Collins ordered the Times Herald to print the story which they did even though they could not verify the story as true.

The Georgia Open Meetings Act required that the political opponent Collins accused of wrongdoing be given notice that Collins was going to discuss him and his business so he could have presented evidence that Collins accusations were false.

Ethical government officials should not need these laws. But, as we've seen with unethical commissioners like Randolph Collins and his cousin Bob Blackburn, these laws are very necessary and any violations should be pursued.

Doug
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Is anybody really surprised about the unadvertised spending?

The guy from Tyrone with the letter to the editor hit the nail on the head when he said there's only one reason Frady, Hearn and Horgan won't pass that 24 hour rule.

It's the same thing with Jack Smith's bank board connection and his all expense paid trip to China for cutting a foreign company some tax breaks.