Comparing commissioners’ words and positions then and now

After having recently served on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners, I was frankly astounded by the contents of the various stories and letters involving Commission Chairman Steve Brown that were included in the March 13th edition of The Citizen.

After reading the paper, I was for some reason transported back in time to my high school days when I was required to read George Orwell’s book, “1984.” It seems that I had finally found the whereabouts of the Ministry of Truth after all of these years.

In Chairman Brown’s letter to the paper, it was remarkable to hear him reiterate all of the reasons that Commissioners Hearn, Frady and Horgan considered when creating the Stormwater Utility at the Commission meeting that occurred on Sept. 22, 2011. These were the three individuals that had the political courage to do the right thing and “not to kick the can down the road,” to use the words of Commissioner McCarty recently.

If one looks at the minutes for that meeting, they will find that Commissioners Brown and McCarty voted in opposition to the motion.

In reviewing those minutes, one also needs to read the comments from now Commissioner Ognio where he is quoted as saying, “If the Board of Commissioners approves the stormwater tax, it was clear that the commissioners do not care about the citizens of Fayette County.”

Now that these Ministers of Truth have a majority on the Board of Commissioners, one has to ask what is the reason for Chairman Brown’s letter to the newspaper and the three stormwater “dog and pony” town hall meetings that are being held.

With Commissioners Brown, McCarty and Ognio already on record as being against the Stormwater Utility tax, why don’t they simply vote to rescind the previous board’s decision to create the stormwater utility and send the taxpayers their money back?

But even more of a concern to me as a taxpayer of Fayette County and the potential impact on the services that I receive were the comments that Chairman Brown had about a “budget crackdown.”

Again, when Commissioners Hearn, Frady and Horgan were in office, they and their professional staff had thoroughly researched the question of what was a fair and equitable distribution of the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) with the cities.

The old commission had even gone the extra mile to hire an outside consultant with expertise in this field to assist in determining what was fair given all of the criteria that needed to be considered under the applicable state statutes.

Based on that in-depth analysis and review of existing case law, the issue had been turned over to the court system to determine whose position was most fair.

Immediately after the new commissioners were sworn in, they and their new “smoke and mirrors” county administrator chose to negotiate with the cities before the case could be heard. As a result of that decision, the new board decided to give the cities more than $14.5 million of tax monies that the previous board and staff believed belongs to the county taxpayers.

At the Board of Commissioners meeting on March 14, I was in attendance and requested that the board and county administrator provide all of the financial information that they used in rendering their decision to ignore the in-house research and consultant report that had been prepared at taxpayer expense.

But more importantly in terms of transparency, I asked that they put all of this information on their website so that all of the taxpayers can see the data and reach their own conclusions about the board’s secret negotiations.

Given that he receives about three times the tax benefits from the new distribution formula than the unincorporated-county resident does, I can certainly see why the former mayor of Peachtree City chose to not let the courts decide what was fair.

At the commission meeting on May 10, 2012, now-Commissioner David Barlow expressed his concerns “on the lack of accountability and transparency in Fayette County government.”

Since there has been no public discussion of this matter and only a secret vote taken, one would think that Commissioner Barlow would seize this opportunity to be transparent and be accountable for his actions that have a long-term impact on the financial condition of the county.

And to quote from Commissioner McCarty from the meeting on May 10, 2012 concerning a different issue with long-term financial impacts, “We need to have it enlightened so that the bottom line on the last day is clear.”

One of the other things that I would like to address with the Ministers of Truth is the purposely misleading scare tactics used by chairman concerning “deficit budgeting.”

Using Newspeak as his primary language now, the chairman would have everyone believe that Fayette County is like the federal government that simply spends money that it does not have.

In the past — contrary to what you are being told — the Board of Commissioners has been very judicious in their use of taxpayers’ monies and its budgeting practices. As a result, the county had on hand at June 30, 2012 financial resources in the General Fund equal to about $34.4 million.

With the final expenditure budget for the General Fund for the 2012 fiscal year totaling $47.2 million, that level of fund balance means that there is adequate monies to pay for about nine months of operations if no other revenues were received.

All of this information that I am providing can be easily verified by looking at the audited financial statements that are available on the county’s website.

When the chairman refers to the evils of “deficit budgeting,” he really means that the previous board decided that it was in their opinion in the best interest of the taxpayers who were having financial difficulties because of the economy to use a portion of that fund balance to offset the cost of the services that needed to be provided.

The board was simply using monies collected in previous years when economic times were good to help offset the impact on our taxpayers when times got tough for them.

One would think that the average citizen would appreciate a board that works towards sustainability of their services and has their best interests at heart.

On the other hand, there are those whose only purpose in life is to misrepresent the facts for their own political purposes and grandstanding.

If one looks at the minutes of the meeting for May 10, 2012, you will see that Commissioner Brown made the motion and Commissioner McCarty seconded it to spend $200,000 from fund balance for asphalt and tack for the Road Department. In their best Newspeak terms, it would be great if these two Commissioners could explain why that is not evil “deficit budgeting.”

Given the real facts about the financial status of our county and the actions of the new board, I would strongly suggest that Sheriff Babb, Ms. Studdard, Mr. Wingo and the other constitutional officers that have been elected by the citizens to provide critical services tell the “we at the county” that they want the same budget opportunities for their offices that the board has seen fit to grant themselves.

And given the obscene salary and benefits wasted to hire a “smoke and mirrors” county administrator and a nonpublic vote to give the cities $14.5 million, it is really hard to tell someone that puts their life on the line or dutifully provides critical services for the citizens on a daily basis that they need to take a furlough day because Commissioners Brown and McCarty didn’t see it in their best political interests to adjust the millage rate last year to compensate for a declining tax digest.

As a taxpayer and voter, I would expect you to send Mr. Rapson a budget that contained what was needed to run your office in an efficient manner.

When it is all said and done, it was Commissioners Brown and McCarty that chose not to adjust the millage rate last year and to deceive the taxpayers into thinking that they could simply pay less for the services that they received. Now, the chairman and this board wants the employees and the citizens to pay for their political hay.

In closing there is still one thing that remains a puzzle to me, I can’t figure out for the life of me how George Orwell knew Steve Brown. When reading Chairman Brown’s “Newspeak” messages in the paper in the future, everyone needs to remember the third slogan of the party, “Ignorance is strength.”

Lee Hearn

Former Fayette County Commissioner

Brooks, Ga.

pips1414's picture
Joined: 03/18/2009
There He Goes Again

Note that all comments are negative. This is for a reason. Ex-Commissioner Hearn is probably the only candidate for reelection who didn't win a single precinct in Fayette County...not even his own. If that is not an indication that he is in poor standing with the voters in Fayette County, what is?

Yet Mr. Hearn has proven time and time again he is not here to help our new leaders. He continues to show up during Public Comment time at the Commissioners meetings. He makes his disparaging remarks, then abruptly makes an about-face and slithers out the door. Mr. Hearn was part of an administration whose actions appeared to support the West Bypass, a road to nowhere, appointed relatives he disguised as friends to public trust positions, and called the money not spent on vehicle and communications equipment and stormwater maintenance "a county surplus." He also voted for mass transit while in office.

It is indeed disappointing to see Mr. Hearn wasting ten or more minutes of meeting time to cast his sour grapes over losing the last election. Had anyone else done that during the last administration, they would have been silenced by the Commission Chairman after five minutes, or even sooner.

I'm sure the public would be more appreciative if Mr. Hearn would keep his promise of assisting the current commissioners in a positive way instead of making a new career of seeing how many stones he can cast in his glass house.

At least that way, he might get a positive comment or two.

I think it's time Mr. Hearn stopped acting like a sore loser. Continuing to alienate those who voted him out is not the way to hold public approval.

PTC Observer
PTC Observer's picture
Joined: 04/23/2007
Mr. Hearn - You

lost, let it go pal. Go find something else to do, it's a big world out there.

ginga1414's picture
Joined: 09/01/2008
Mr. Hearn's Comments

Mr. Hearn has spoken at several commission meetings since the current board was sworn into office. I am so sorry that he chose to immediately leave after his comments. The current board did address his concerns after each of his visits to the commission meetings.

I have been attending commission meetings on a regular basis for the last five years, and I am very happy to say that the manner in which citizens' comments are received under the new board as opposed to former boards is worlds apart. However, Mr. Hearn should have been able to discern that for himself.

During his last visit to the commission meeting, he spoke more than twice the amount of his allotted time. He was allowed to speak until he was finished with his comments. Chairman Brown and the other commissioners listened very politely and never once pointed out that he had gone over his time limit. As Mr. Hearn was walking out of the meeting, Chairman Brown began to respond to Mr. Hearn's comments but when he saw that Mr. Hearn didn't care to hear a response, Chairman Brown and the other commissioners saved their remarks
until the end of the meeting.

Mr. Hearn's comments at each one of the commission meetings this year have been very similar to his comments here in The Citizen. In his letter, Mr. Hearn has said that former Chairman Frady, along with Commissioners Horgan and Hearn created the Stormwater Utility on Sept. 22, 2011. He said that they "had the political courage to do the right thing."

Personally speaking, I think it is extremely unfortunate that Commissioners Hearn, Horgan, and Frady didn't see fit to have the courage to spare the residents in the Merrydale, Kari Glen, and Morrison Road areas disruption of their road services before the culverts collapsed underneath those roads. Flat Creek Trail is in grave danger of collapsing as well. There is a fire station on Flat Creek Trail.

It seems to me that if Commissioners Smith, Maxwell, Frady, Horgan and Hearn left their offices "with the final expenditure budget for the General Fund for the 2012 fiscal year totaling $47.2 million" they could have found the "courage" and "monies" to repair the stormwater culverts on Merrydale, Kari Glen, and Morrison Rd. before they collapsed.

It seems to me that those culverts and many others could have been repaired if the previous commissions had seen fit to apply local SPLOST funds to collapsing roadways instead of building the West Fayetteville Bypass. Shouldn't they have taken care of dire road problems first before building more roads?

Mr. Hearn said in his letter here, "One would think that the average citizen would appreciate a board that works towards sustainability of their services and has their best interests at heart." I agree completely. I am also sure the folks on Merrydale, Kari Glen, and Morrison Road would also agree and probably wish Commissioners Smith, Maxwell, Frady, Horgan and Hearn had thought of that while they were in office.

Josh Bloom
Josh Bloom's picture
Joined: 08/15/2010
Lee Hearn Preaching?

Mr Hearn,

I cannot believe you bring up transparency issues with our current commissioners. HOLD ON, let me go see what what Addison Lester has to say about transparency.

Mr. Hearn would you please go away. You have done enough damage. You lost your election and now it is time for our current commissioners to clean up the mess that was made by you, Frady, and Horgan. At least the two of them has had the common sense to stay out of the public spotlight.

americanpatriots's picture
Joined: 04/05/2010
Lee Hearn - just go away!

Lee Hearn, sore-loser former commissioner, spoke at this week’s meeting and asked several utterly stupid questions, made accusations against the current commissioners, and then bolted for the door without waiting for a response just like he did at a previous meeting.

Those in attendance were visibly annoyed with his insulting demeanor and many commented after the meeting that they wish he would just go away.

I overhead one person who said, “the November vote tally suggests that even his family and neighbors in Brooks didn’t vote for him.”

Hearn said he would be coming back.

Didn’t he and his pals Maxwell, Smith, and Horgan get the message that we had had enough of their “good ole boy closed door secret politics” when we soundly kicked them out of office?

Frady didn’t seek another term because he knew he couldn’t possibly win.

Jim Richter

tortugaocho's picture
Joined: 12/05/2005
Who it this Commission Chairman ?

Who it this Commission Chairman ? Let's see--- he voted for the West Fayetteville Bypass "Road to Nowhere"; he's pro-developer lately; he's keeping the rain tax on us.

Is it Rick Price ? Steve Wallace ? Bill Bonner ? Heck no---- IT'S STEVE BROWN !!!

Why am I shocked at this first-quarter-in-office turn around. Steve Brown looks like the Obama video in July of 2008 saying that a $6 trillion national debt is unpatriotic. You are right Mudcat--- I got fooled !!!

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Joined: 10/26/2005
Things change, turtlebreath

And nothing changes more quickly than a politician who sees a chance to ride the Pinewood deal into some TV time and some magazine ink (he already owns the local newsprint ink).

See, it is very simple - he voted against it before he voted for it.
Look at it his way - we have our very own John Kerry, without the hair.
Why should anyone be surprised.

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Joined: 07/23/2012
Situations change and tigers change their stripes

In the print edition of the paper, Mr. Brown suggested that Phase 2 move foreword to avoid a lawsuit for breach of contract. Again, I call BS. Maybe we need to file a request to review the contract. The deal with Pinewood Studios is most likely contingent on the roads completion. I doubt Mr. Brown would change his stripes if the deal was not close. And I don't disagree for the sake of FC future prosperity.

However, what happens if the deal falls through? There will be a lot of discussion then.

I am not fooled by any of this. Mr. Brown had access to the contract all along. He knew whether or not the contract was voidable. He most likely confided with Mr. Ognio and Barlow with this information too. And if not, then I question his reasoning not to advise them.

Spyglass's picture
Joined: 01/28/2008
Anyone who did't expect a flip flop by SB

Flat out has had their head in the sand.

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Joined: 07/23/2012
Instead of complaining, find the truth

Not sure why everyone is getting thier panties in a wad. I don't really care for his political career, but the man, like you or I, has every right to stand before commission and ask questions, no matter how dumb you or I think they are. Don't you agree American Patriot?

I don't care for his walking out after his speech, but Mr. Brown, Mr. Ognio, and Mr. Barlow also have a history of going before commission requesting transparency too. Is it only ok if you like the person?

Instead of pissing and moaning, why doesn't someone research his statements to see if they bear any truth and then respond. I bet a lot of people would be interested in comparing the claims. Does the answer lie somewhere in the middle?

By the way, I did get a good laugh at the "Ministers of Truth" comment. All they need now are capes.

moelarrycurly's picture
Joined: 10/17/2010
It takes no more than

this childish boo hoo diatribe above than to remind all who voted him OUT of office that their decision was better than right, more than best for the county and the most appropriate way to shout out to him these lost, we don't have to or want to listen to you anymore, and most importantly, you don't represent us any more.

His sign off above speaks volumes, Former, with a capitol F. Maybe someone needs to tell him he's just one of us now. Seems he still didn't get the message.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Joined: 10/26/2005
He is not just one of us - in his mind

The boy has double-dipped at the entitlement trough and therefore feels superior to us civilians (as government employees refer to the rest of us). First he was a long-time government employee (with a credit card) at the county level. Then he was an employee of another county. Then he was actually elected as a county commissioner. All that makes him smarter and better than the rest of us. He's an "insider".

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Joined: 07/23/2012
Mr. Morgan

I believe that Mr. Hearn needed to be replaced for a number of reasons.

Mr. Hearn now appears to be using Mr. Browns political tactics against him. We will see how he fairs long term if he keeps the pressure on. He would be smart to have someone else sign the letters and see how the people react. Right now it appears to be sour grapes.

Some of his points are valid and I think the new commissioners are now learning its not that easy to be transparent. I would like to know what Mr. Hearn meant by the obscene salary and benefits being paid to the county administrator. I cant see where this was ever published.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Joined: 10/26/2005
Agree Husband, but once again it is the wrong messenger

Having valid points and zero credibility still adds up to zero. Same as our dead wood mayor.

Best part of the Hearn diatribe was Oddo's rebuttal. He sort of dissed both Hearn and Brown and established his independence. It looks like this group is evolving into a 3-2 with Ognio and Oddo being the 2. In fairness I believe things will be much more cordial than the 3-2 with Frady in charge. I think Steve Rapson has already shown he can bring class and smarts to the county.

Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Joined: 07/23/2012
MLC - Read this again

And imagine if someone else pointed out the same flaws. Would you not believe that there was some bits of truth?

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