At Tuesday night's board meeting, county Commissioner Mort Ewing accused Chairman Kathy Morgan of breaking state law and violating board policy and the board's code of ethics while administering a recent road project, claims Morgan said Thursday she believed to be untrue.
Ewing said he had several concerns with how the chairman has carried out the board's actions, including a 2011 Cook Road project that the board approved the chairman to move forward with and seek bids for on April 5, 2011.
He said Tuesday that the board minutes from that April 5, 2011 meeting and subsequent meetings do not show any authorization for the chairman to spend any money on the project; however, the county's check register shows the county spent $198,771.21 on the project, without a bid ever coming back before the board.
"That was spent without a bid and without this board's approval and all that money was paid to one contractor, Pittman Construction," Ewing said, who said earlier that "it appears we've had a problem getting board action executed by the chairman."
Ewing said Morgan violated board policy by spending more than $20,000 without a bid, broke state law, which says all county transportation projects greater than $20,000 shall be bid out, and violated the county's code of ethics.
Commissioner J.C. Henderson asked Morgan for clarification, but the chairman said this was the first she had heard of the issue and as far she knew she did not violate any policies. She said she would look into the matter and give a response at the next board meeting.
When reached by phone Thursday, Morgan said she had not yet gone back through all of the records, but, based on her recollection, she said had received special permission from the board at the April 5 meeting to move forward on Cook Road and other projects without coming back to the board, because the projects had to be completed quickly as state funding was at jeopardy.
Board minutes don't specify whether the bids would be brought back to the board for approval.
According to county records, the board approved three road projects, Cook Road, Adams Circle and Dearing Street. The projects were part of the state's annual paving program, Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG).
Board minutes show the county needed to patch local roads using county funds so they could be paved by the state.
"We didn't know what the amount was (at the time), and the need was a little greater than the amount awarded, and we were tying very hard to get that number in line," said Morgan. "What I had done was ask (the board), this one thing I want you to authorize me to go ahead with the project and we will get bids and go ahead and issue a work order for those bids instead of bringing that back to the board.
"I probably should have brought back to the board a summary of the bids as an administrative action to let them know. But I do know I talked to all of them as projects were done in their district," said Morgan, who noted board members were kept informed and had several prior opportunities to raise concerns to her.
She said the board had a separate long work session on the topic.
"There's never been any intent from us to mislead them in anyway and that's the reason they get the check register and all the budget reports monthly," said Morgan.
As a result of his concerns, Ewing made a motion to approve the latest round of road projects, with the following stipulations: the chairman work with county engineer and county staff to get bids for the projects; all bids shall be reviewed by county attorney or his designee before they are sent to the board for consideration; and that no county funds be spent on any of these projects before the board approves them.
The motion, which was made before Ewing explained his concerns, was passed unanimously.
The projects are a culvert replacement on Crowell Road, work at the intersection of Crowell Road and Ga. Highway 81 and work at Gaither's Road.