The Board of Commissioners approved a 2015 Ford Expedition for Chairman Richard Oden with a price tag of more than $40,000 in a split 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Oz Nesbitt voting against.
Nesbitt had strong words on the matter after Tuesday's meeting. He had attempted to separate the vote on the SUV from the rest of the consent agenda but his motion died for lack of a second.
Commissioner Dr. Doreen Williams then quickly brought the motion to approve the consent agenda, which included the new take-home SUV, and was seconded by Oden. Nesbitt voted to oppose the consent agenda.
After the meeting, Nesbitt said, "I'm disappointed at the amount of mixed messages that have been sent to the people of Rockdale County. Chairman Oden mentioned two weeks ago that he listens to the people of the community. And yet when he had an opportunity to downsize, downscale, going from the Expedition to the Ford Explorer, he refused to move away from his own personal interest and ego.
"At the same time, we took a vote on moving forward with green initiatives in Rockdale County, becoming more eco-friendly. The chairman voted for that. However when it came to his personal interest, regarding the environment and the community, he became mute.
The requested vehicle was cut in price from $44,182 to $40,766 - exactly $3,416 less than before - by removing optional equipment such as the tow packing, working lights, platinum paint and 4-wheel drive removed. The XLT package still adds about $13,403 to the standard Expedition price, which includes leather seats and a navigation system.
The City of Conyers has two officials that have take-home vehicles. Chief of Police Gene Wilson drives a 2013 Dodge Charger that cost, with lights, about $26,550. Public Works and Transportation Director Brad Sutton drives a 2006 F-150 truck that cost about $26,000.
Rockdale County Public Schools Superintendent Richard Autry drives a 2008 Chevy Tahoe as a take-home vehicle that cost the school system about $29,200.
Newton County's Board of Commission Chairman drives a 2012 Ford Explorer that cost about $23,700 when it was purchased in 2011.
Commissioner Williams initially had reservations about the proposed 2015 Ford Expedition XLT for Oden due to its $44,182 price tag when it was introduced at a Jan. 20 work session.
But she said regarding her support Tuesday on the SUV, "It was a compromise. I didn't get everything I wanted. But neither did the Chairman, and that's just life." She pointed out the issue had been on the agenda for three months and needed a conclusion.
Nesbitt said, regarding Williams' vote, "I'm just as confused about the position of Commissioner Williams, flip-flopping her posture and her stance on this issue.
He continued, "I'll admit, I said I was in favor of the Chairman having an upgrade. However after listening to the people in the community, the taxpayers, I decided it was in the best interest of Rockdale County for us to spend less money. He could get his job done in the same way in a less expensive vehicle. I'm confident that this issue is not over and the people of Rockdale County will ultimately have the last say."
Nesbitt initially "fully supported" the new vehicle in January but last week said he thought that Rockdale County Chairman and CEO Richard Oden should have gone with a 2015 Ford Explorer, which cost $29, 947.