Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oconee County Commissioners Accuse Chairman Davis of Playing Politics With Salary Increases

Luke, Daniell Take Lead

The ongoing election for chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners spilled over into the agenda-setting meeting tonight as the Board debated a proposal to give cost-of-living wage increases to employees of three departments funded by the state but supplemented by the county.

In the end, the Board voted unanimously to give the salary adjustments to staff members in the Superior Court, County Extension and District Attorneys Office, but only after Commissioners Jim Luke and John Daniell criticized BOC Chairman Melvin Davis for bringing the issue up in the last week of the election. “Frankly I believe you were pulling a political trick by doing that,” Luke said.

“Similar to what you are doing tonight,” Davis responded.

“Maybe so,” Luke said.

Luke, in fact, asked whether Davis had violated the ethics ordinance of the Commission by revealing in public something that had been discussed in executive session.

Davis responsed to Luke’s charge of an ethics violation by asking County Attorney Daniel Haygood to review the matter and report back “expeditiously.” [See update below.]

Daniell said he thought the issue was resolved back in December when the Board decided to give cost of living adjustments to other county employees and not to members of these three departments.

He also said he felt that the matter had been resolved in an executive session after the last Commission meeting.

“We brought this up in executive session, and I thought the matter was decided,” Daniell said.

“Here we are, July 24, seven days before the polls close on the election. I just find that disturbing, aggravating and totally unnecessary.”

Commissioner Chuck Horton, who is challenging Davis for the BOC chairmanship, remained quiet through most of the discussion, but he did say that he, too, felt the matter had been decided in the last executive session.

In the end, the Board voted to give increases summing to about $2,400 to the employees of the three departments.

Horton, who currently holds Post 4 on the Commission, has made it clear that he is running for chairmanship of the Board because he does not like the way Davis deals with other Board members.

Luke, who is running for reelection for Post 1 against challenger Sarah Bell, has been particularly outspoken in recent months in criticizing Davis for not working well with the other four Board members.

In 2009, the four members of the Board voted, over the objections of Davis, to change the organizational chart of the county so that County Administrative Officer Alan Theriault and Financial Director Jeff Benko report to the full Board, rather than merely to Davis.

[Haygood told me in an email message today (Wednesday, July 25), that Luke had not actually filed an ethics complaint. Haygood also said he informed the Commission that, in his opinion, what Davis released--that a raise was being discussed--was not something exempt from public disclosure under the state's open records and meetings regulations.]

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