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Budget hearing turns into personal grilling
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"Embarrassed" and "ashamed" were the only words Rockdale County Post 1 Commissioner Oz Nesbitt could use to describe how he felt after Commission Chairman Richard Oden addressed Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council Director Marty Jones during his presentation at the 2015 budget work session Tuesday afternoon.

Rockdale County Post 2 Commissioner JaNice Van Ness silently shook her head in agreement to Nesbitt's statement.

The shared feelings among the Post 1 and Post 2 commissioners came from the actions of Rockdale County Commission Chairman and CEO Richard Oden. They both felt as though Oden's line questioning, presentation of questioning and overall tone towards Jones was out of line during the public meeting.

"On behalf of the board of commissioners of Rockdale County, we do apologize," Nesbitt said to Jones.

Oden seemed to be troubled because Jones was requesting the county give $25,000 more annually to the CREDC, but Oden claims he still hasn't received information related to the CREDC's exact return on investment to the county, exact number of jobs created, new business comparison for the county and City of Conyers, an action plan for the CREDC and other financial information dating as far back as six years.

Oden made Jones continuously walk to the commissioner's bench from the podium to retrieve documents he kept pulling out of folder. Jones read aloud the first two documents. They read as though they were e-mails, and one was dated from November 2013 and the other was from August.

In the documents Jones read, the aforementioned items and others were being requested from Jones.

Oden then stated he was going to give each commissioner a copy of Jones' job description and read aloud that from January to August, Jones only made 48 calls, which Jones clarified to say it was 48 different people he called.
"Mr. Chairman, I don't understand the interrogation," said Van Ness. "This is a budget hearing."

Oden quickly responded that he was simply asking questions to Jones, the same way Van Ness did every department director who made a presentation during the work session.

"I'm asking questions for budget requests of $25,000," he said. "I asked for information. I have yet to receive that information."

Rockdale County pays $125,000 to the CREDC. Conyers has paid $60,000 but has recently decided to increase its total contribution to $75,000.

Jones stated the increases in funding are necessary to "keep moving Rockdale County forward," in terms of economic development.

Oden then listed off a number of recommendations the CREDC could do to increase its funding versus the county providing more money. His options included the city matching their total of $125,000 annually for 2015 and doing away with the special projects coordinator position, which costs about $23,000 a year.

"It does not have a clearly defined job description and appears to be nonessential," said Oden, who added that there's isn't a job performance indicator in place by the CREDC to judge the quality of work being done.

Oden then called Jones an employee of the county, which Van Ness corrected him and told him Jones is an employee of CREDC, and claimed Jones showed him no respect by not providing information a year after it had been requested.

He also said everyone working in sales is required to produce an accountability chart to evaluate performance and that's what he was asking of Jones.

"You got to convince me Marty, and I'm going to be very candid and straightforward," said Oden. "I wanted to make sure the public heard me say this."

Nesbitt tried to correct the situation.

"You are not a Rockdale County employee," said Nesbitt to Jones. "There is clearly a collaboration between the county government, city government school board and a host of stake holders in this community that make up the parts of the CREDC.

Nesbitt, who serves as vice-chairman of the CREDC and supports the pay increase to $150,000 by the county, corroborated Van Ness' claim that Jones doesn't report directly to the county.

"This is a whole totally unique set up relationship that we have with the CREDC, whereas Mr. Jones is a community partner. He is not an employee," said Nesbitt. "The tone, the presentation displayed has been quite aggressive, very embarrassing from a professional standpoint. I'm appalled by this. Mr. Jones I had no idea that you were going to be subjected to this this morning."