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Posted: November 18, 2010 11:19 p.m.

BOC reaches SPLOST consensus amid contentious debate

The Board of Commissioners came to an informal consensus, 3-2, on a final $57.6 million SPLOST list Thursday night, but not before a contentious discussion broke out about which projects should be included and whether or not the three commissioners in favor had met illegally prior to the meeting.

The question of whether or not an illegal meeting had taken place was based on a comment made by Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who voted in favor of a final SPLOST list proposal presented by Commissioner Mort Ewing. Ewing and Commissioner Tim Fleming also voted in favor.

Although the three appeared to have established a consensus at one point, the meeting continued, until Henderson was later asked a question about a specific SPLOST item.

"What I thought we were doing, was, there was a consensus. We were trying to get a consensus of whether or not we wanted to move forward with this list right here (he held up Ewing's list). And I thought, and I may be wrong, that we had a consensus. It used to work where as, if you had three commissioners who agreed on something, we worked towards it, we worked out, we got with the county attorney and worked out whatever we needed to do."

Before he could continue, Chairman Kathy Morgan interrupted.

"I'm sorry, but back up. Did the voters elect three commissioners to meet and get with the county attorney and work out what they want to do?" Morgan asked.

Henderson continued on, saying that in the past majority consensus had always ruled. Eventually, the board accepted that a consensus had been reached and the meeting was adjourned.

It became clear after the meeting that Morgan and Commissioner Nancy Schulz had interpreted Henderson's comment about the county attorney, to have meant that the three commissioners had previously met to discuss the list together with the attorney on their own. A meeting of a majority of the board of commissioners must be announced at least 24 hours in advance and must be open to the public, except to discuss items that fall under executive session.

Therefore, any such meeting between the three commissioners in favor of the proposal would have been illegal. After Henderson had left the courtroom, Morgan questioned Ewing, referencing Henderson's comments. Ewing said the three did not meet ahead of time.

Henderson could not immediately be reached to clarify the situation later Thursday evening.

Disagreement over SPLOST list
Regarding the creation of a final SPLOST list, commissioners Ewing and Schulz both presented their own proposals for final lists Thursday night. (See each proposal in the related content box to the left of the article.)

Schulz and Commissioner Earnest Simmons did not support Ewing's proposal because they felt it included district specific projects for districts 1 and 4, but not 2 and 3. Simmons represents District 2 and Schulz represents District 3.

Schulz said she preferred her proposal, because it did not include any district specific projects. There were also some other disagreements, including how much money to devote to specific projects.

Schulz and Simmons wanted to go over the proposals line by line to come to a consensus, but that was when Henderson pointed out that a consensus had already been reached.

"We didn't come to compromise, we came, there was two presentations tonight that was presented to us; one by Commissioner Ewing, one by Commissioner Schulz," he said shortly after the quote above. "And I looked at and I listened to both of them, and I agreed on this one (he held up Ewing's proposal again). And if I'm not mistaken, somebody correct me if I'm wrong, because I think Commissioner Ewing, he agreed on it, which it was his proposal and so did Commissioner Fleming and that's three people. And I don't want to argue, I just want to vote and, not vote, but just make a consensus and hopefully move on."

After some further discussion, the meeting was adjourned. Both lists were for $57.6 million, based on a six-year SPLOST collection projection prepared by the county finance department. The BOC will officially vote to approve a list at a later board meeting.

 

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