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No vote for Chairman Oden's new SUV
Commissioner Oz Nesbitt, Commission Chairman Richard Oden, Commissioner Doreen Williams

(Conyers, GA) - The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners chose to take no action on a new SUV for the chairman.

During the commission's voting session Tuesday morning, the board sat at opposing ends of the discussion, with Post 2 County Commissioner voting no, Rockdale Chairman and CEO Richard Oden voting yes and Post 1 County Commissioner Oz Nesbitt abstaining on the agenda item.
The item died for lack of a second.

In a rather confusing moment prior to the vote, Williams first made a motion to approve the requisition of the vehicle, with Oden seconding her motion. However, once the item was up for discussion Williams spoke about how she still thinks the board should look at obtaining a vehicle that's not only "cheaper" but more "fuel efficient."

"I still have some concerns about the car," said Williams. "I think it's still important to talk about it."

The vehicle in question is a 2015 Ford Expedition XLT, which Williams has had reservations about since it was introduced at a Jan. 20 work session because of the vehicle's price tag.

The large SUV costs $44,756 but was factored into the county's 2015 capital budget during last year's budget discussions. Williams had some questions about the optional equipment added, such as the XLT package, the towing package and the 4-wheel drive, which adds $17,393 to the cost of the standard vehicle.

While she believes the chairman should receive a new vehicle just one that's "less expensive" and gets "better gas mileage."

"I think it's important to recognize a new car is needed. There's no question about that," she said.

The new vehicle would replace the 2005 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer currently driven by Oden. The 2005 Ford Expedition was purchased for $34,360 during former-County Chairman Roy Middlebrooks' tenure and has accumulated over 111,000 miles on the engine.

Nesbitt, who initially supported the new vehicle in January because it would help another county department in need of a vehicle and improve the image of the chairman, is less than enthused about the same vehicle now. Like Williams, he supports a vehicle upgrade for the chairman, but believes that it shouldn't be "an almost $50,000 vehicle" because that's "not the best way to spend the taxpayer's money."

"I think it's just another notch to his ego," said Nesbitt after the meeting. "I think the chairman should get a less expensive vehicle like the (Ford) Explorer, like the Coroner."

The Rockdale County Coroner had requested a 2015 Ford Explorer at a cost of $29,947. It was approved and purchased with funds from the 2015 capital budget.

In previous meetings, Oden has defended the purchase of the vehicle by saying this newer vehicle has the same features as the current vehicle that was purchased ten years ago.

NSP contract

The contract of Tanesha Lanier, program coordinator for Neighborhood Stabilization Program in Rockdale, was approved by the board.

Williams, who had questioned the duties of Lanier, made the motion to approved Lanier's contract for $52,000 for one year, with an option to renew for two one-year terms. Oden and Williams voted to approve the contract.

"I would like to approve the contracts, however I would like to see moving forward we have a different system of accountability on those invoices so we don't have to dig through so much information," said Williams.

Nesbitt chose to abstain from the vote because of those questions surrounding Lanier's work in Rockdale.

"(Lanier) has represented Rockdale well, however, there are some concerns stemming from the community and Williams. Concerns that seem to be valid," he said after the meeting. "I strongly fell like Chairman Oden should have got Lanier in to clear up any issues. Who's better to answer these questions?"

Even though the contract was approved, Nesbitt says he's going to make a request to Rockdale County Chief of Staff Gerald Sanders to bring Lanier before the board "to bring clarity" to the issues.

No changes to ethics board

Williams' proposal to change the appointment process of the ethics board fell flat at the meeting.

In December, the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved to have an ethics board, which hears ethics complaints filed against county commissioners, feature three representatives with appointments from the Rockdale Bar Association, the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce and the Rockdale Coalition of Homeowners and Civic Associations.

Williams proposed changing how the Rockdale Coalition of Homeowners and Civic Associations chooses its appointment to the board. Unlike the Bar Association and Chamber of Commerce which makes direct appointments to the board, the Homeowners and Civic Associations nominates three people and the employees who live within Rockdale County appoint one of those selections to the board.

Williams called that method "too convoluted" and proposed the third appointment be a member of the Homeowners and Civic Association with the selection being made directly from the Homeowners and Civic Associations.

Her motion to approve the amendments died for lack of a second.

Seconds after Oden moved on to hear public comments, the very next portion of the meeting, Nesbitt asked to discuss the matter in a little more detail.

"You didn't entertain no discussion, that's all I'm saying," Nesbitt said to Oden.

Oden responded saying, "Well we closed out. When we come to work session, we can bring it back and it can be discussed."

After the meeting, Nesbitt said he didn't have a problem with Williams' amendments, but he wanted to make sure he had complete understanding of the changes.

The board will meet again during its work session next Tuesday, Mar. 17, at 10 a.m. at the Assembly Hall building, 901 Main Street, Conyers.