In a few short days, the Board of Commissioners will vote on whether or not to reappoint Mr. Tommy Craig as Newton County’s Attorney. As most citizens know, Mr. Craig receives a large amount of money from the taxpayers for the services he renders at the pleasure of the commissioners. In the 2014 calendar year alone Mr. Craig received almost $1 million in fees. Although, time and time again the citizens share their outrage over this mismanagement of our tax dollars and the failures of the county attorney our commissioners continue to vote to appoint him. I ask will 2015 be any different?
Mr. Craig’s failures are blatant to the citizenry, yet seemingly are oblivious to those acting as our representatives. The elected officials fail to ask the tough questions, fail to hold Mr. Craig accountable for his shortcomings, and are negligent in their duties to protect the taxpayers from wasteful government spending. Mr. Craig is one of the largest examples of their carelessness.
In recent months, Mr. Craig has provided tentative and inconsistent legal advice regarding the $4,500 county check issued to Commissioner J.C. Henderson. Ultimately, Craig described the actions on the part of Mr. Ellis and Mr. Henderson as “small technical violations” of the law.
Mr. Craig has failed to provide credible accounting for the $21.7 million already spent on the Bear Creek Project. The report provided by Mr. Craig’s office on Nov. 18, 2014 did not even reconcile to the county’s financial records.
It has been 14 years of costly delays, and the county is still without a 404 permit. Mr. Craig has also put forward to the BOC a safe yield analysis of Lake Varner completed after the 2007-08 droughts that was in constrast to one produced by the Newton County Water and Sewage Authority. This incident could have cost the citizens of Newton County $86,000.
This short list of examples shows the County Commissioners fail to ask the tough questions and fail to fulfill their duty to the citizens.
As elected officials, many of whom are business people, it would be reasonable to think our commissioners would see that the multiple roles that Mr. Craig plays within county government could be seen to compromise the integrity of the county’s contracting processes. For example: as county water consultant, he often recommends the county hire a specific contractor to complete work on a given project. Then as a county attorney he advises the BOC that there is not a requirement that bids be received for that work. Then, once the work gets underway, as project manager, he supervises the very contractor he recommends to the BOC. One glaring conflict of interest is the recommendation by Mr. Craig to the BOC to hire Krebs Engineering and Schnabel Engineering both of whom work with Mr. Craig on many other projects throughout the state.
Furthermore, Mr. Craig has facilitated the BOC’s ignoring of county ordinances dealing with no bid purchasing and meeting agendas. His ineffectiveness has resulted in unlawful actions by the board members in matters of great public interest This flawed plan, which was supervised by Mr. Craig, cost county taxpayers $240,000. The inadequacies of this plan, once evaluated by independent experts, will reflect poorly on the BOC and expose Mr. Craigs lack of oversight of the contractors.
It would seem that these examples alone would be enough to rattle the cage of any sensible and trustworthy elected official. And at least would cause them to question these shortcomings and think long and hard about a reappointment of such a contractor. But, unfortunately, neither have happened in the past. It is time for our elected officials to take steps to fulfill their duty to the taxpayers. It is time for them to vote no on the reappointment of Mr. Tommy Craig as the County Attorney. They must explore more cost-effective options that will save hundreds of thousands of dollars of hard-earned taxpayer money. Their vote to not reappoint Mr. Craig will begin to eliminate the conflicts of interest that presently exist. Commissioners, it is time to remember your fiduciary obligations to those who have elected you and to remember that you are a representative of the people.