It looks like the selection of a county administrator is going to be put on hold until the beginning of the new year, when the face of the county commission changes.
At Wednesday’s Fayette County Commission workshop, outgoing commissioner Lee Hearn urged selection committee members, especially the three commissioners-elect (Charles Oddo, Randy Ognio and David Barlow) to use the resources provided by county attorney Scott Bennett about meeting requirements.
“It will keep you from any form of embarrassment. He knows the way the process works and he’s been a reliable source of information for this board,” Hearn said.
His comments come on the heels of the acknowledgement that the five-member committee may have violated Georgia’s Open Meetings Law — which requires that all committee meetings of a public agency be advertised in advance.
In meetings that were not advertised to the public, the selection committee - made up of Barlow, Oddo and Ognio, as well as seated commissioners Steve Brown and Allen McCarty - had narrowed down the search from a list of nearly 30 to five top contenders and then, on September 26 and 27, set up interviews with those five candidates.
Upon request from this newspaper, Brown made the minutes of the meeting on September 20, the meeting at which the list was narrowed down, available.
“We discussed a series of issues related to budgeting, personnel, current county attorney, current county administrator, ERIP, some past votes of the Board of Commissioners. At that meeting, I gave each of them a document with my thoughts on a strategy we could employ to select the new county administrator.”
Brown also noted, in an accompanying email, that “As I have openly admitted previously, I take full responsibility for not knowing the contents of the new state law pertaining to such matters and was not aware any changes had taken place in regards to hiring. Thus, I misinformed the gentlemen in attendance at the meeting.”
Brown said he didn’t ask county attorney Scott Bennett about the laws the committee would need to follow, but instead asked the advice from two other private attorneys he knew. Neither attorney advised him of the changes in the law, he said.
Brown said once he received the call from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia’s office informing him the law had changed, he immediately called the local newspapers, gave a full explanation of the events and admitted to the error.
“Again, I take full responsibility for not being aware of the changes in the state law and misinforming the others.”
--See ADMINISTRATOR, page 2
Even though Brown was informed he’d have to advertise the executive session meetings, he said he felt it was ‘the right thing to do’ to hold the interviews already scheduled with the top five candidates, especially given the fact that several had traveled some distance to be there.
Additionally, at last Thursday’s meeting, the committee offered a letter to board chairman Herb Frady, indicating they didn’t feel the need for more interviews and were ready to recommend one candidate for the position. Hearn, Robert Horgan and Frady all objected to being completely left out of the process they were to have been voting on, though they have, thus far, offered no objection to the candidate.
On Wednesday afternoon, Brown asked the current board if the committee was going to officially be able to present their selection for a vote by the board.
“Or should we wait until January and do it then? Are you willing to allow us to go ahead with the process and give you a candidate to vote on?”
“I’m not going to vote on somebody I haven’t even had a chance to talk to,” Horgan said. “It’s hard to process the way you guys have approached this and that might be why Commissioner Hearn said what he did. It wasn’t done properly at all. If that’s the way it’s going to be done, I don’t want to have anything to do with it.”
Horgan added that the three outgoing commissioners had invited the incoming ones to be part of the process as a courtesy but had assumed they would be privy to the information that was being discussed and they weren’t.
Frady also made it clear that he wasn’t going to vote on the candidate.
“There were a lot of candidates on the list that looked very qualified and they got overlooked,” Horgan said.
At the meeting, Brown said the decision would be held until January, when the new board takes their seats. If not, the county will be without a county administrator, since outgoing administrator Jack Krakeel’s temporary term is up in december.
“I was completely willing to reconvene the committee under the letter of the new law to resolve the matter. However, when asked, the outgoing commissioners stated that such an attempt would be futile as they were not willing to support our choice.”