Fayette’s in-house attorney gets 6-months severance on 4-1 vote

The Fayette County Commission voted 4-1 Thursday night to sever the contract with the county’s staff attorney Scott Bennett.

Under Bennett’s contract, he will receive six months worth of severance pay, which equals $67,500. Commissioner Steve Brown cast the sole vote against the measure.

Commissioner Robert Horgan told The Citizen that the move was due to a belief that Bennett’s job will be in jeopardy in January because of problems that have occurred between Brown and Bennett.

“With Steve (Brown) it is just not the right work atmosphere, especially if Steve is not trusting what Scott is telling him,” Horgan said. “I fully believe they were going to get rid of Scott and it was going to be blown up to be a big deal.”

Horgan said he heard that Brown was considering an attempt to void Bennett’s contract because it began in late 2010 before Brown took office.

“Because of all those things, we felt, ‘hey, if y’all need to have a fresh start, just like a new county administrator, maybe it’s time to get another in-house attorney,’” Horgan said.

That means the new county attorney will be chosen by the “new” commission as three brand-new commissioners will be sworn in January to join holdover commissioners Brown and Allen McCarty, both of whom will be in the middle of their four-year terms.

Horgan noted that Bennett has saved the county a significant amount of money by operating as an in-house attorney as opposed to outside counsel. For example, when the county refinanced bonds recently, Bennett did not take a commission which other contract county attorneys have done in the past, resulting in a savings of thousands of dollars.

The motion to let Bennett go was not a matter of the commission being dissatisfied with his work, Horgan said.

“None of this reflects on his professional capability in doing the work,” Horgan said. “He’s been great.”

Bennett’s departure will not leave the county without an attorney, as outside attorney Don Comer has experience in working on county matters and may continue to do so until a new in-house attorney is chosen, Horgan said.

“My only fear is: don’t revert back to having outside counsel,” Horgan said, noting that having Bennett as an in-house attorney has been beneficial to taxpayers compared to the previous setup of having an outside attorney represent the county and charge an hourly rate.

johenry
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Pot head Horgan

I get back in town and have to read this garbage!! Who is Robert Horgan anyway? Didn't he get busted on drug possession and didn't he lose to the other guy by a big margin? It's clear pot head is protecting his buddy.

Does pot head Horgan really think anyone cares about his opinion? Add 'delusional' to the list describing the guy.

americanpatriots
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Husband and Father of 2

Please read my comments again. I said nothing about worshipping the new commissioners.

I'm certainly not calling the shots for anyone but thanks for your compliment anyway.

I have attended almost every meeting in the last 3 years and have observed Krakeel, Smith, Horgan, Frady and Hearn in action. Also, I have thoroughly researched several important decisions these clowns have made, and believe me, it will take a long time to erase the absolutley idiotic decisions these guys have made.

Since these guys have never been transparent in their actions, I suspect we will uncover many more things they have done in secret.

No, I can't answer your questions.

I suggest you start by going to the meetings beginning in January and make your own decisions about the new board of commissioners.

Husband and Fat...
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AP

I certainly agree that the gentlemen you noted were not the most transparent group, and I would not be surprised to discover additional closed door findings and possible charges filed..

I can't however praise the new group just yet, as they already made the mistake regarding the required notification on the county manager review. Not the end of the world mistake, but certainly not a great start.

Forgive me if I am incorrect but if I remember correctly, you stated a few weeks ago that you advised the incoming commissioners to beware of the outgoing commissioners motives after handing over the county manager selection files, so I tend to believe that you do have more swag with the incoming crew than you let on.

Surely, I wish I could attend every county and school board meeting, however with two young kids it is difficult to be as incolved as I want to be and choose to unwind after work by being active my kids sporting, scouting, music, and religious activities. This in no way indicates my lack of interest in the county, state, or federal political interests.

Please refer to my post to Mr. Morgan regarding my opinion on the chairmanship position.

americanpatriots
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Nuk1 - read my earlier response to mudcat

As I earlier stated, they interviewed five potential candidates and it came down to two finalists.

If you knew Steve Rapson as I do, you wouldn't hestitate to agree that he is an extremely capable administrator and will do an outstanding job for the citizens of Fayette County.

Do you and mudcat have anything else to do except going after Steve Brown and the newly elected commissioners.

You should be on your knees thanking everyone that voted against Smith, Horgan and Hearn who, along with Frady, have done so much harm to Fayette County. I for one, can't hardly wait for four more weeks to pass until we see the last of those three "good old boys."
Their legacy will be felt for many more years.

NUK_1
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AP: I know Rapson well

I think he's a good choice. That's not the issue here.

I won't miss Horgan, Frady, Smith, Maxwell, Heran etc. one bit either since I never voted for any of them in the first place. I'm keeping my fingers crossed with the new blood and hoping that Brown has in fact learned from his terrible reign of error as Mayor in PTC. I have more faith in the new commissioners than I do in that happening.

Brown is going to need to govern instead of being the perpetual outsider and being against everything and trying to lead through letters to the editor attacking anyone and everyone and demonizing people.

Robert W. Morgan
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Yes nuk, Demonizer Brown does have to actually govern

but that is precisely the problem - he can't! He is in perpetual attack mode whether he is in office, campaigning for office or (God help us) in a leadership position. Attacks against his opponents, attacks against incumbents, attacks against fellow commissioners, attacks against developers and builders, attacks against straw men that he conjures up out of thin air. That's bad enough, but when he has actual power as he did for 4 long years as PTC mayor, he attacks employees, volunteers, staff, councilpeople who disagree with him and most famously the "Good old boys" defined by him as someone with experience or someone who has supported something created by someone else - like a predecessor.

Governing also means working with and taking advice from city or county staff - which especially includes the attorney. It also means working with and sometimes compromising with other mayors of various cities, commissioners from other counties, elected state officials and state agencies such as ARC and DOT. If I were considering voting for him as the public face of Fayette County - which is Chairman of Fayette County Commission (and it appears that 4 people are considering just that) some investigation into his past interaction with all those people mentioned above would be enlightening.

Husband and Fat...
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I have to agree. Fayette

I have to agree. Fayette County needs someone on council that everyone respects and presents the county positively. Not sure who on next years council would be the best selection, but speculate that Mr. Brown won the favor of the others by fighting so hard for their election. It would be political suicide for any of the three amigos to cross Mr. Brown.

Jack Smith, when he was the chairman had the savvy personality to shake ones hand and make that person feel good while he stabbed them in the backs for his political chronies. He had the look, smile, and spoke the political language everyone expected from a county chairman.

I like Mr. Brown as a person. He is a good husband and father, but he hasn't displayed to many people that he can play well in the sandbox with others. Everything is a fight and compromise is not something that he has yet to grasp.

While I think we don't have anyone that radiates leadership as chairman, Mr. Brown is probably the best choice we have. Hopefully he can learn to be a more productive leader by toning down his bulldog attacks and lead the county back to being one of the tops in the state.

Husband and Fat...
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AP- Isn't it a little premature?

So now we should be on our knees worshipping the new commision? Seems a little premature don't you think?

The issue is not the selection of Mr. Rapson and no one is going after Mr. Brown or the commissioners elect. We are fellow patriots who have questions that we want to comprehend. For instance:

1. Why was Mr. Brown the lone dissenting vote on the county attorney resignation? It appears to me that he was just being petty and vindictive.

2. Why haven't any of the commissioners elect explained their oversight in the paper? We all know they read the blogs. 2 of the 3 were heavy posters prior to getting elected and they all promised to be transparent.

3. Seems like everyone is quietly wondering who the next chairman is going to be. Most of the early wagering is on Mr. Brown since he has the strongest personality. I believe that the 3 amigos would be commiting political suicide voting against Mr. Brown due to his strong personality and his vindictiveness. Since Mr. Brown personally helped 2 of 3 get elected, he's pretty much a lock for the post.

No one expects our commissioners to be perfect. We do however want and need critical thinkers that look out for the values of the people in the community. We also want them to be able to clearly explain why they voted for or against any particular issue.

AP, you are a smart guy who seems to be very close to the new board and is probably calling some of the shots. Can you sir answer ALL 3 of my issues?

americanpatriots
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mutcat you are wrong

The two existing commissioners and the three comminsioners elect interviewed five candidates - not just one as you stated.

I agree with you Mudcat. The one they chose, Steve Rapson, was by far the most qualified candidate and is the person we need as our next county administrator.

AtHomeGym
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AP & Future Commisioners Interviewing

I can't quite figure out how 3 private citizens (unsworn commissioners-elect) and 1 sitting commissioner can be breaking the "open meeting" law when they met and interviewed candidates. They had NO authority to make binding decisions and apparently had no ntention of doing that. So we have a sore loser outgoing commissioner making a formal complaint about....what? From a common-sense viewpoint, ounds like a frivilous complaint to me.

NUK_1
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AHG: apparently they did

Brown announced they had decided that regardless of this snafu, Steve Rapson was going to be next FC Admin come January. That sounds like they sure did make a decision and it did so in a very non-transparent manner. Was anyone else considered? Who was interviewed? What was discussed? Who knows?

Once your elected, it doesn't matter if you're sworn in yet or not, the Open Meetings Act applies. That's what Brown claims to not have not known.

AtHomeGym
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Nuk & Open Meetings Act

Way I read the Act, it applies to meetings of "A governing body" and those elected/unsworn commissioners are not officially members of a governing body--yet. And while Rapson may be the smart choice, there is still a necessary vote by the Commission to be taken. Not to dispute your statement, but wonder just where can one find the applicaton of commissioners-elect to the open meetings act--you know? I see where AP says there were two sitting commissioners at the meeting--who was the one besides Brown? And wonder why Commissioner Horgan's complaint to the AG hasn't been made public--shouldn't we all be able to read that?

NUK_1
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AHG

The other sitting councilmember was Allen McCarty.

The Open Meetings Act was amended this year to specifically try and preempt what happened here: some elected officials meeting with soon-to-be seated elected officials and making a bunch of decisions in darkness instead of daylight.

Tyrone ran into this situation a few years ago when they threw out some bums and then before the newly-elected took office, they all met and pretty much laid-out their own agenda for once they got elected including who was getting fired and who wasn't. At that time, this was legal under the Open Meetings Act. Now, it's not.

I understand how it can appear to be splitting hairs when these meetings don't end in an actual up/down vote and aren't "official," but that's one of the dangers: elected people trying to find any way possible to not operate in sunlight. It is what is.

I think this commission has a greater chance of using good governance than the previous one, even if Brown is Chairman. I saw other elected officials turn on Brown in PTC when they got sick of him in PTC and I think you have some pretty strong-willed folks now that aren't going to go along just to get along with Steve.

Husband and Fat...
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Curious Commisioner Brown

Mr. Brown:

Why would you be the lone dissenting vote on this mans severance pay when it is written into his contract?

A. Were you plotting to void his contract as Mr. Horgan suggested? (Not that we can trust his pot smokin butt.)
B. Were you planning to get rid of him once your three amigos were sworn in?
C. Did you not believe he is capable to continue as the county attorney?
D. Do you want to play in the sandbox only with people you can manipulate?

I think it would have been more appropriate to vote for the severance and leave it at that. Why do you always feel the need to show how vindictive and petty you really are?

mudcat
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All of the above, Husband and fat.... All of the above.

Well, maybe not C. In Brown's world capability has nothing to do with it. Neither does experience, loyalty, longevity, past results or any normal standard of evaluation. Unless it is loyalty to stoking his enormous ego. The brown clown is going to be chairman and he is making clear that it is his circus.

All one has to do is look at the city attorney drama in Peachtree City when Brown somehow got elected mayor. Fayette County voters - you were warned - now you will have to live with the results. The good news is that he can't do as much harm as Haddix or Obama, but it seems he has a pretty compliant commission, so we shall see.

AtHomeGym
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Mud Kitty & 'compliant commission'

How can you say that when they haven't even been sworn in yet?

mudcat
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Well now, maybe because of what they did

Going along with Brown's plan to meet (illegally) before they were sworn in to review one and only one handpicked (by Brown) candidate for the county manager's job. That indicates compliance more than mere cooperation, IMHO.

Actually they did stumble upon the very best person I can think of to manage the county, so that is not really the issue. The issue is leadership, process and independent thinking by each commissioner. The gang of 3 led by Frady voting in lockstep with development interests was fairly bad and certainly inappropriate. The new gang of 3 or 4 or 5 led by Brown voting for whatever anti-development socialist crap he dreams up is certain to be far worse. Just watch and observe.

AtHomeGym
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Mudkitty & compliance

Well now, maybe,just maybe, they thought "Hey, this guy's a sitting commissioner--he should have his stuff together"--now that they've discovered that he didn't/doesn't, common sense would dictate that they think twice (or maybe three times) about following his lead next time, regardless the issue. I say let's be cautiously optimistic but mindful of proceedings and results.

mudcat
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Those are the rosiest of rose-colored glasses you are wearing

I admire your optimistic outlook and will do my best to follow your shining example. Maybe, just maybe, huh? I suppose anything is possible but in any event we have just over a month before the new commissioners are sworn in, a new commission chair is elected/selected and maybe, just maybe we will get Chairman Oddo or Chairman Ognio considered before Barlow and McCarty fight over the microphone to nominate Brown. How am I doing so far?

Husband and Fat...
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Heaven forbid

Someone would vote for themselves, lol

I would speculate that there was already a deal cut with the three amigos that they would vote for Brown since he helped all win. Surely they wouldn't vote against him so soon. Brown would cut ties with all three and then claim everyone is against me. Would hate to see his new years letter to us afterwards, lol.

AtHomeGym
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Mudkitty & 'how am I doing?'

You're doing quite well- that's a quite plausable scenario but I much prefer my glasses to blinders or sunglasses 24x7!

Spyglass
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Brown does not trust himself

Much less anyone else.

See his flip flopping record for proof.

Best of luck.

tonto707
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Inside attorney, outside attorney

makes no difference. Looking back, it appears the in house deal has saved the county an average of $250K annually.

My bet is no attorney will be able to work with this new board of commissioners.

conditon55
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The drama is about to begin..

Inside counsel, outside counsel, It is six of one, half a dozen of the other. The only thing for sure is the commssioner Brown will constantly be embroiled in problems.
He made a career bad mouthing anyone else in a position of responsiblity or authority with too much breast beating. He claims to know all and have all of the answeres.

One of the prime compliant about other regional administrators has been abuse of power. Lack of transparency and back room deals.

Now even before his crowd takes office, they are doing exactly what he systematically complianed about for year.

My prediction for these folks is that it all ends badly for them.

Inside counsel, outside council, take your pick, they're going to need it.

It is still front page news onthe other PTC paper. Can barely find mention in the citizen. ...

AtHomeGym
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Condition 55 & Counsel

I think that Commissioner Brown will find that some of the new commissioners have their own personalities (NOT agendas) and will stand up for what they believe is right for the County. If that's not true, we're in for a rough couple of years.

highflyer2
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Trust me

If there is ANY county in Georgia that needs an inhouse attorney......it's FAYETTE!