Today marks the 4 year anniversary of my 1st county commissioner meeting. Often times when we reflect on activities of the past, we do so in the context of the present day. Take for example the PATRIOT Act or “Enhanced Interrogations”: today I am not a fan of the PATRIOT Act and the loss of privacy. However, after 9/11, I fell into the “kill them all and let God sort them out” camp so the PATRIOT Act didn’t seem as bad in the moment of 9/11. Now with distance of time, I am reminded of how our government, when enabled, can abuse the power bestowed upon it by the people; if you need an example, look no further than the I.R.S. targeting conservative groups.
So as I was campaigning back in the spring and summer of 2010, there were a couple of major factors in the environment that led to the decisions made on and before January 6, 2011: 1- the Failing Economy and the County’s Financial Position, 2- concern about financial transparency.
In 2008, the financial market collapsed and Hall County started to see the impact. When the 2009 audit came out, it was easy to see that the county was in financial trouble as the county ran a deficit of over $17m across two years. Our reserves (savings) had dropped to $6.6m, the employees had 1 furlough day each month, and the county had raided the solid waste fund to pay retirement.
To compound the issue, the county appeared to be handling large financial issues behind closed doors. When you look at the actual meeting minutes from the executive session on September 8, 2010, you will see several issues discussed that were not executive session appropriate. The Georgia open meetings act can be found at O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1 through 50-14-6 and it is very specific as to what can be covered at the meeting.
I bring up these issues because they influenced my perspective and lead me in the decision determining that the county needed new leadership. While you can say that the staff worked at the whim of the commission in charge, I realized that radical changes were going to need to be made and it was going to take a new group to implement them. At the time, I actually thought that we were doing a favor to the leaders that were let go by not putting them in the position where they were not going to have to downsize many of their coworkers.
While I truly regret how the transition occurred, I did not regret trying to find a new attorney. As you can see from the minutes, the attorney was present for the executive session. While I was willing to take ownership of the entire leadership turnover, the attorney was the only person that I was adamant about replacing. This is one of the reasons why I always voted against his reappointment.
I plan to be at the meeting this Thursday and I don’t expect that there will be the crowd that I had 4 years prior in large part because of the changes that were made on January 6th, 2011. I’m trying to decide if I should use my two minutes granted to every citizen to once again voice my objection about our legal representation, but since two minutes isn’t a long enough time, I will probably just sit back and observe our leaders in action.