Misfiring on hiring Fayette’s new chief administrator

3 commissioners snubbed in process of interviewing replacement for Krakeel; former PTC Councilman Rapson is committee's choice

Invited to participate in the process of hiring the next administrator for Fayette County’s government, the three newly-elected county commissioners have joined the two holdover commissioners in endorsing Peachtree City resident and current Union City City Manager Steve Rapson.

In the process of doing so, however, all five commissioners may have violated Georgia’s Open Meetings Law — which requires that all committee meetings of a public agency be advertised in advance.

Moreover, the newly-elected commissioners, joined by holdover commissioners Steve Brown and Allen McCarty, created a stir by conducting the candidate interviews without inviting outgoing county commissioners Robert Horgan, Lee Hearn and Herb Frady: whom they are now asking to rubber-stamp their selection of Rapson as the next county administrator.

It’s a rather rocky start for new commissioners David Barlow, Randy Ognio and Charles Oddo considering that each campaigned on improving transparency in county government. The three were asked to participate in the hiring process but were never appointed by the commission as an official committee.

Yet under the new language in the Georgia open meetings act, their meeting was required to be advertised in advance “if any official business, or policy or public matter of the committee is formulated, presented, discussed or voted upon.”

The incoming commissioners were provided with data and information on each candidate who applied, and at the conclusion of their meetings Tuesday, they made a recommendation to hire Rapson as the next county manager.

The new law took effect July 1 but Brown said the agency that helps train and advise county commissioners across the state had not sent any information to him to alert him of the requirements of the new law.

Horgan said this week that he couldn’t possibly vote to install anyone as county manager without having at least spoken with that person first.

“I’m not going to vote on somebody I haven’t even had a chance to talk to,” Horgan said, adding that he still has responsibility as a commissioner until his term ends Dec. 31.

Horgan said he thinks the matter will be discussed at the commission’s workshop meeting that starts today (Oct. 3) at 3:30 p.m. at the county’s Stonewall government complex in downtown Fayetteville.

Barlow, Ognio and Oddo haven’t even been sworn in yet, much less trained on Georgia’s open meetings laws, unlike sitting commissioners Steve Brown and Allen McCarty, who both have received such training.

Brown says he is the only person to blame because he was relying on the old open meetings law and not the new one. Brown said his fellow commissioners were trusting him to handle the matter appropriately.

“I take total responsibility,” said Brown, adding that he would release minutes of the meetings based on notes he took, and if necessary the new commissioners would meet again to handle the matter after advertising it appropriately for public notice. “We didn’t want to hide anything. I just had no idea about that new requirement as part of the new law. I had no idea that was even in there.”

Brown called The Citizen Tuesday to provide a belated notice of the meetings, after the committee had already interviewed one of the five finalists for the position. He informed The Citizen about the timing for the next interviews scheduled later that same day.

Brown said he had not inquired with County Attorney Scott Bennett prior to the meeting to learn about the laws the committee would need to follow. Instead, Brown said he sought that advice from two other private attorneys who have municipal experience. Neither of those attorneys were privy to the new change in the law, Brown said.

As for Horgan’s insistence to at least meet and speak with Rapson, Brown said if the roles were reversed and if he were the outgoing commissioner, he would have no problem voting for a new county manager as recommended by the new incoming commission members.

“I would say yes, I would do it, yes. It’s their administration,” Brown said after he was asked for a direct answer to the same question a third time during the interview.

Brown said he strongly encouraged Rapson to apply for the job based on their work together on the Peachtree City Council during the last decade.

“When I called Rapson, I was saying ‘Please, I’m begging you to think about taking this job,’” Brown said. “... I’ve followed the guy, known every job he has had, worked with him previously, I’ve seen him in action and I know how he thinks and what he thinks. I know his process and dang, he’s just the guy. ... Chuck, Randy, David and Allen had never met him but when they got through with the interview there was no doubt in their minds he was the guy. That’s how definitive it was.”

Oddo took to the podium at Thursday night’s commission meeting to thank the commission for enabling them to participate in the process. It wasn’t until after the meeting, however, that Frady, Hearn and Horgan were handed a sheet of paper signed by the 2013 commissioners recommending Rapson as the next county administrator.

Brown also claimed there might be resistance to hiring Rapson because of his reputation for handling budgets, on the fear that Rapson “might find something” inappropriate in previous budgets. But even if the matter ends up being delayed until Jan. 1 when the new commissioners are sworn in, Rapson will certainly be Fayette’s next county administrator, Brown pledged.

“The top three issues for us are the budget, the budget and the budget, and nobody has the acumen to handle that like Rapson does,” Brown said.

On the open meetings matter, Brown noted that he is also a dues-paying member of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, and the foundation is slated later this month to hold its first training meeting on the new law.

Larry Sussberg
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Commissioner Steve Brown

I respect the fact that you admitted to the error and are willing to take the heat.

Unlike the mayor of Peachtree City who picks fights and is unable to control his emotional outbursts.

Now, I urge you to mentor Josh Bloom away and, convince the mayor not to run again. It's an embarrassment to the city.

Steve Brown
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Hiring

Thanks, Larry. I was not aware that the law regarding hiring department heads and county administrators had changed this year.

At this point, the existing majority on the board has said there is no need for us to continue using the new law. Chairman Frady admitted he did not like our choice.

We will carry on in January.

I am not sure what you mean by "... mentor Josh Bloom away." I did think that Mr. Bloom and Cal Beverly made valid points on the annexation issue.

The PTC election will be an interesting affair. Many are watching with skepticism.

Husband and Fat...
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Mr. Brown

I am not sure anyone who has followed FC politics over the last decade believes that this was an "oversight" on anyones part. It wouldn't have been an issue had the three new commissioners not campaigned and promised an open government.

You got your Christmas gift early with the election of these three followers. It appears that you will be voted in as chairman (congratualtions) as well. Hopefully these men (new commissioners) will stand on thier own two feet and vote for what is best for the county. Not sure that will be the case as no one else offered any explaination in these blogs when they were all over it during thier campaign. Coincidence?

It is pretty obvious that you are the pupput master pulling the strings on Mr. Bloom as his presentation is very similar to the scorched earth method you have used over the years. We do need young blood involved in local politics, however your teachings may not be conducive to him in the long run. Let him form his own methods of communicating to the people. I think this will better serve him.

Larry Sussberg
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Steve Brown

"away"...from Haddix

"skepticism" ... if Haddix runs and possibly wins

Can't wait to see who YOU will endorse.

Steve, were you Mayor in 2000? And can you tell me about the rezoning that was done in 2000 on this property by Fayette County, see link making reference to it?

http://www.thecitizen.com/articles/01-26-2010/hwy-74s-rezoning-eyed

stranger than f...
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We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Fayette electors granted Mr. Brown his sycophants, and the consequences have begun before their inaugurations. Walt Kelly reminds us, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." Expect many more power plays from Mr. Brown that will dwarf this mild illegality. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

Quallacherokee
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Strange Fiction

I didn't see your name on the Ballot, while Walt Kelly is half right he and you by proxy have failed to acknowledge the other side of the coin. When we succeed that's on us too. In this day in time with $16 Trillion of national debt, cities and counties filing Bankruptcies, politicians building bridges and roads to nowhere, schools being closed due to lack of funds. I find it refreshing as well as wise to secure an accurate accounting of Budgets.
For the first time in a LONG time Fayette County has elected men that can not only pass Drug Test, but have first hand knowledge of Budgeting for success.
If Obama is re-elected a Budget Conscience Commission will not only be a demonstration of the wisdom of FC Voters but a true God-send.
With all politeness intended, I'm looking forward to preparing the nay sayers of the county a 5 course dinner of Crow ..... QuallaCherokee

stranger than f...
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Corrupting power out of the starting gate

As a citizen of Fayette County, I strongly desire this new administration succeed for our corporate benefit. Pogo's "auto-enemy" comes into focus immediately upon our poor choice of commissioners. Instead of electing intelligent and rational independent thinkers, we have awarded a very narcissistic Commissioner Brown carte blanche to govern the county at his whim. The lack of independence appeared immediately as the sycophants blindly followed Mr. Brown into an illegal activity. Not one of our newly elected officials bothered to question their fearless leader or consider checking with an independent source.

Along with Pogo, we might heed another wise quote from Lord Acton, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Husband and Fat...
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Follow the Leader

Every rational person wants our administation to succeed in local, state and federal levels. Unfortunetly, many times the loudest person screaming is the only one heard.

Mr. Brown, like him or not is not a dummy. He's sly like a fox. He likes the thought of power and was willing to do anything to gain that power during the last election. He found a couple of gentlemen that showed an interest in local government, befriended them, and slowly had them drinking the coolaid. He most likely felt (and proved) that he had the capability to yell so loud, and moan so much, that he could get these people elected because he felt he could lead them.

Mr. Ognio is a respected businessman in our community. He has a passion that should be commended. However, like everyone, myself included, he has liablilities that cannot be overlooked.

Mr. Barlow appears to be a fanatic. A person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, as for a cause. His behaviors, his education, and his personal lack of fiscal responsibility scare the daylights out of me. He latched on to Mr. Brown and follows him like a little school girl with her first crush.

I see the most promise with Mr. Oddo. He seems like a logical man from a good family. I hope that he studies all sides of the issues and steps into the spotlight and shines.

As a citizen of FC, I want my commisioners to succeed and to make informed decisions individually, free of outside attractions. The three new commissioners need to rely on themselves to question everything that goes on and not just play follow the leader.

yellowjax1212
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Get Ready

I think we can all expect more of this from Brown and the boys.

maggie
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Misfiring?

Breaking the Georgia Open Meetings Law is more than just "misfiring." This is a terrible start for the new commissioners.

CI5835
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Ignorance of the law is not a defense...

anyone involved in city, county and state government knows and/or should know about these changes in GA's "Sunshine laws" AND hello we have a County Attorney whom we PAY!! I suspect he didn't want to go to the county attorney and risk being told not to do what they were planning or risk letting the 3 sworn COMMISSIONERS in on it so he says he checked with two private attorney's, whether he actually did or not is something else.

Very reckless behavior on the part of Mr. Brown.

Also, the three newly Commissioners elect should know better..

NUK_1
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Nice try at circumventing Open Meetings Act

Yeah...get only 2 commissioners and then 3 that aren't in office yet and we can make a backroom deal and get Hearn,Frady and Horgan to rubber stamp it in public. ooops, there was a slight change in the Open Meetings law that forbids this type of operating in the dark. Curses, foiled again!

This is just STUPID. First off, expecting the exiting 3 to simply approve whoever you select is dumb. They at least had the graciousness to invite the soon to be in office to participate in the process of selecting a new county admin, but that doesn't mean they said "pick whoever you want and leave us completely out of it." DUH. Secondly, it was an obvious attempt to do an end-run around the previous Open Meeting Act to begin with.

I love the part of the article where it's mentioned that Brown was asked 3 times if he was in the position that a Hearn, Frady or Horgan was in, would he simply rubber stamp whoever? He answered on the third time "yes" and I do not believe that for a second.

All this has done is prolong the process of selecting Rapson and put a stink over the entire process that didn't have to be there at all. For a group that all have very publicly talked about "open government" and "transparency," this was a huge failure.

It also reflects poorly on the 3 folks coming into office that they 100% trusted Steve Brown on this. How can you blindly trust Brown when he's been in office for a while and didn't realize that commissioners like himself can't participate in FC defined benefit plan? I hope that is a lesson learned for the rest of them.

Husband and Fat...
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Strike One

Commissioner Brown, this is strike one for the new commission, and the batter hasn't even been announced. How can you lead the team if you don't know the rules? This went into effect July 1st. Didn't you have time to read up on this? What are we paying you to do? Do you remember what people say about stupidity not being an excuse for breaking the law.

Now, I applaud you for taking the heat away from the newcomers following your lead. Didn't any of them question the openness or were their campaign promises thrown out the window once they felt the power they think they posses?

Please explain why you didn't ask for council from our county attorney before calling this meeting? Please provide the names of the two attorneys, who have municipal experience, you sought advise from so we know who not to utilize for any municipal matters.

I don't question your wanting to hire a person that will have your back (Mr. Rapson). However I don't blame any of the sitting commissioners from taking offense to you asking them to rubber stamp his nomination. Courtesy is a two way street.

I will be praying for you and the commissioners elect.

Robert W. Morgan
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Funny stuff. Good preview of things to come in 2013

If The Citizen had a cartoonist, a circus clown car with 5 clowns looking like our 2013 commissioners would be appropriate. That being said, Rapson is indeed a very qualified and effective administrator and no one comes close to him when it comes to budgeting and other financial matters. This is a very good choice for the county. We can easily overlook his short stint as a councilperson in lockstep with mayor Brown in PTC.

Husband and Fat...
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Steve and the Flock

I think the new name for this group should be Steve and his Flock. Not one with a shread of individuality. Its not that I even dislike Mr. Brown the councilman. Its the way he goes about his business. He would have been all over anyone else if this occured. Letters to the Editor, blogs, ect.. Now he shrugs it off and laughs about it in the peoples face.

We also know his story about not knowing the new open meeting law doesnt hold a lot of water. Plus, he will never provide the names any of the lawyers he asked for council, because it never happened.

Robert W. Morgan
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I know sheep come in flocks, but a gaggle seems fitting here

Brown's gaggle of geese.

birdman
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Robert W. we

tried to warn them. Ah.... so now it begins. Brown is faster this time. The big 3 haven't even left office and Brown has presumed his expected position and place himself in the "Chairmans" seat. Already violated the Ethics Laws. At least in PTC he waited awhile. And the same old "Oops... I didn't know" excuse. He has had more than one Ethics Training classes. He claims to be an "expert" at political knowledge. Yet... "oops there I go again" excuses. What a lying buffoon! And what about McCarty??? Well I guess he has no desire to be Chairman. Since he simply nods his bubblehead to whatever Brown tells him, I guess he wouldn't challenge for Chairman.
And RAPSON???? REALLY???? Gee... no cronyism there! Steve and Steve have been "buddies" for years. Rapson even had an Ethics Violation to be "like Steve." Hmmmm..... and Brown complained about Hearn voting to appoint a relative to the Election Board. Yet here's ol' Stevie not even waiting until the Commission is seated, trying to fill all jobs with his best buddies. The purge has already begun and he isn't even in charge. God help the new Commissioners. But it seems they'll idolize Brownie like love struck school girls, just like McCarty does.
Gonna be a long, expensive few years. Then we'll "throw Steve off the Island," just as we did in PTC.
Guess I'm gonna spend way too much time blogging.

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