UPDATE: (Aug. 30, 2013) In a response Friday evening, Nesbitt pointed out that Oden has also opened up county facilities to nonprofit groups, such as the JP Carr Gymnasium on Friday afternoons.
“He contradicts his own protocol,” said Nesbitt. “He’s sending mixed messages ... Are we going to tell one (non-profit) group we are going to cater to their needs and not the other?... Is it all about Chairman Oden or is it about serving the constituents of Rockdale?” he asked.
Nesbitt said he served all the residents of Rockdale, not just those who voted for him.
(Aug. 30, 2013) Commission Chairman Richard Oden replied to the statements of Commissioner Oz Nesbitt and Commissioner JaNice Van Ness in a released statement Friday afternoon:
Oden said in a released statement, "I want the public to know I have never attempted to limit the flow of information to, and between, Commissioner Oz Nesbitt, Sr., and Commissioner JaNice Van Ness." He said Nesbitt and Van Ness had made false statements about that issue. "If they have these concerns, I would have appreciated them coming directly to me to discuss them. There is no reason, for instance, for Commissioner Van Ness to resort to submitting open records requests.
He continued, "The county’s Enabling Act allows for the Commissioners to have direct contact with our Finance Director, County Attorney, Chief of Staff and County Clerk. More specifically, the Chief of Staff is the day-to-day go between for the Commissioners, myself and our department heads."
He said Nesbitt was sending requests through the wrong channels and not to the Chief of Staff.
"So because of this I’m regularly encouraging him to follow proper protocol, yet he continues to undermine this process.
"Furthermore, I recently learned of an event he is involved in, or is co-sponsoring I think, where he requested County vehicles, staff and resources be used. I, nor the Chief of Staff, was aware of this until it was pointed out to us one morning. Nevertheless, Commissioner Nesbitt wrote an endorsement letter on County letterhead of an event where registration fees would be collected for one particular organization. Also, the event flier circulated in the community with his name on it was not up to the County’s standards. This is not how we are supposed to operate.
"As to the Aug. 28 email referenced, that admonishment was not about the school supplies drive, but Commissioner Nesbitt requesting a staff person tell the Chief of Staff to reserve J.P. Carr for a 10-week Youth Leadership Program for area students that he is sponsoring with a private citizen. Again, the best course of action would be for him to contact the Chief of Staff directly so that more information about the event could be gathered to best move forward.
"Commissioner Nesbitt can, of course, do what he pleases on his own. I have no issue with that. My concern is the proper use of county resources. There are certain procedures to get things done efficiently.
"Ultimately, I want all three of us as the citizens’ representatives to work together positively. However, it is disappointing to see that our two Commissioners have chosen to air their grievances with me in this way. How a Commissioner communicates about legislative matters has a different process requirement than administrative matters."
The Commission Chairman's prohibition on the part time commissioners using county facilities for events without going through the Chairman's office is the latest restriction that the Post I and Post II Commissioners say keep them from effectively doing their jobs.
In an email sent Aug. 28 to Commissioner Oz Nesbitt and county staff, Chairman Richard Oden wrote:
"Please have Commissioner Nesbit send me his request in writing with all pertinent details of his goal and objectives to use county resources.
"His continued hidden agendas and efforts to go around the office of the Chairman and CEO through the clerical staff to host any event using county resources is disrespectful, distasteful and inappropriate. I have not seen any commissioner from any county attempt to utilize county property for personal interest and cover it with a shield of using youth.
"His previous efforts with training were hosted at the library. Most commissioners who do these kinds of events throughout the region and the state that I know of, use their own resources and not the resources of the tax payers.
"I am directing Director Jackie Lunsford and her staff not to reserve anything for any Post Commissioner until my approval is given.
"Please past this message to Commissioner Nesbit"
Commissioner Nesbitt said he understands clearly the role of the Chairman and the role of the Post 1 and 2 commissioners. "I respect the chairman. I respect the seat of the chairman. I understand he is responsible for the day to day operations. However he can't achieve anything major in the county on behalf of the citizens without either Post 1 or Post 2 support."
But, he added, "When the chairman rules by intimidation and his leadership style is that of a dictator and executive staff members and department heads are limited or operating in fear of communicating and interacting with the other two Post 1 and Post 2 commissioners, it really does put a strain on the effectiveness and efficiency of our local government.
"Post 1 and Post 2 are not able to serve as the check and balance on behalf of the citizens as that is part of our role and responsibility," he said.
The part time commissioners are not allowed to ask for any information from the department directors without going through the Chief of Staff, said Commissioner JaNice Van Ness.
The Chief of Staff is technically the point of contact between the three commissioners and the part time commissioners and county departments. But this effectively bottlenecks and hampers the issues the part time commissioners are able to move forward, said Van Ness.
The Post 1 and Post 2 part time commissioners do not have a staff member to help follow through on collecting information in the same way Oden has an executive assistant and the Chief of Staff to do the tasks he assigns, she pointed out.
In the past, Van Ness said she has had to file Open Records requests to obtain basic information.
"Every director is so fearful for their jobs," she said.
Nesbitt said the county's enabling act calls for a chairmanship with day to day management duties, not a CEO nor a chief of staff. "It's only a privilege and plus that we have a chief of staff" due to the workload, said Nesbitt.
"It's those three letters, CEO, that has his mind twisted. We are not a DeKalb County. We do not have a CEO form of government. We have a chairman who has duties and responsibilities of day to day management.
"Some of this mindset and behavior started last year. This year, it has gone to a whole new level and gotten out of control. It puts a strain on the execution of duties for Post 1 and Post 2. It places our employees on the most awkward and uncomfortable position."
Nesbitt described the latest incident as an eye opening experience and opportunity for reflection for everyone. "I'm looking forward to us getting past this hiccup. I'm looking forward to moving on in a more positive and progressive manner. I'm looking forward to building a good rapport with Chairman Oden as we get back to doing business with everybody."