Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oconee County BOC Chair Asks for Delay of Action on Reorganization

Following Citizen Comments

At the end of a public hearing tonight during which seven citizens spoke, Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis suggested the board should postpone action on its proposed reorganizational plan until citizens have a chance to consider all the options.

The seven speakers were not unified in their reaction to the proposed change, which is designed to strengthen the hand of the commissioners in dealing with county affairs, though most were critical and thought more public involvement was needed before a decision is to be made.

Franklin Shumake told the board that the county should “make a thorough study in the next 12 months of what forms of government will be most beneficial for our county” before any action is taken.

Kate McDaniel said the county needed a citizen “advisory committee” to study the proposed action.

When the last person had spoken, Davis said the board should consider “tabling and postponing” action on the resolution given the comments of the citizens and that a future decision should be taken only “with the public very involved.”

Final action on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for the next regular meeting of the board on Aug. 4. The hearing tonight was the second scheduled on the ordinance, which County Attorney Daniel Haygood drafted after discussions with the board going back to last September.

Board members provided few reactions to the comments of the citizens tonight. Commissioner Margaret Hale once again offered to discuss personally the proposals with anyone who wanted to call her for that purpose.

Two of the seven persons who spoke during the public hearing and two additional citizens addressed the board about the ordinance during the public comment period at the end of the meeting, and during this time Commissioner Jim Luke challenged a response Chairman Davis gave to businessman Mike Power, who had not spoken earlier.

Davis told Power that the full commission was involved in hiring of department heads, and Luke said that certainly was not the case. In the end, Davis withdrew his statement and said he alone hired department heads.

(I was one of those who spoke at the meeting. I asked the commission to pass the ordinance after eliminating a section dealing with the powers of the chairman. I said I felt the section was unnecessary and that the commission should focus on defining its own operating procedures rather than specifying the activities of the chairman.)

The chairman of the commission–the legislative body of the county–also serves as chief executive officer for the county.

Davis had told me in an interview I did with him on July 13 that he planned to ask the board to table the ordinance. He said at that time he had no plans to challenge the ordinance legally if it is passed.

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