Some local residents took aim at Haralson County commissioners at their work session on Tuesday over a proposal for a referendum asking residents if they would like create the position of a county manager.
The proposal is making a return to the Commission floor, as it was hotly debated and failed in a tie vote in August 2018, with then-Chairman Allen Poole and Commissioner Sammy Robinson voting no and commissioners Jamie Brown and David Tarpley voting yes. Then-Commissioner, now Chairman Ronnie Ridley was not at the meeting to break the tie. Now, as then, Commissioner Tarpley brought forth the proposal.
“(This is) not for us to change your government,” Tarpley told those at the meeting. “But for you, the citizens, to have an opportunity vote on which way you want to go.”
In 2005, the county went from a sole-commissioner form of government to a board of commissioners and the residents had no chance to vote on the change, he said. But this time, Tarpley said, he wanted the voters to make the choice. He just asked that the residents have an open mind on the issue and examine the facts before making a decision.
Before there was any discussion, by the commissioners, Ridley said he didn’t think the issue should come before the board until the District 4 seat, which was left empty by the death of Commissioner Brad Vines, was filled.
“I feel like the people of District 4 are not represented,” Ridley said.
He brought up some appointments to County boards that were postponed in the past until new commissioners could take their seats.
But Tarpley said that the appointments were not the same type of issue. The appointments were made by a vote of commissioners. In a referendum, every voting resident has the opportunity to represent themselves through their vote, he said.
“District 4 still has the same opportunity as District 1, 2 or 3,” Tarpley said. “Do you want us to dictate what’s gonna happen or do you want us to give you the opportunity to vote your conscience? I have never seen anything more fair than the people voting.”
Commissioner Budde agreed, but as he started speaking Shirley Neumann, a resident who has been active in opposition to a proposed landfill, yelled over him, “Adam Budde you said this wasn’t even going to be on the agenda on Facebook today!”
“You’re trying to vote this through when they don’t even know about it,” she yelled, talking about residents who weren’t at the meeting.
There are no votes at a work session. Work sessions are for discussion only and votes happen at meetings.
Budde tried to defend himself, as she yelled over his comments. But Budde continued, “I’m not going to argue with you.”
He asked Ridley if the Commissioners should put off discussion about another referendum on the work session agenda dealing with sales of beer and liquor at convenience stores on Sundays.
Ridley answered that he thought important issues should be put off when one district is not represented.
“We made a lot of decisions when Mr. Vines was sick,” Budde said.
He asked Ridley if they should cancel the rest of the meetings until the new commissioner was installed, a suggestion that Neumann loudly approved.
The election probably won’t be until March 2021. Budde, who lost his bid for nomination for the Republican candidate for his current seat will no longer be in office at that time. He was voted into office by his constituents and he should have input in to the actions of the county for the rest of his term, Budde said.
Neumann continued to shout at the commissioners even as Ridley told her there would be no back and forth between the spectators and the Board.
Some residents did ask questions.
One asked if the county would retain the county chairman as a full-time supervisor of the county if a county manager was hired. Another asked why the question had to be decided now. And another asked if the issue of a county manager could be decided by referendum, why couldn’t the issue of a landfill in the county. Another asked how the county manager would be chosen. Still another asked if a county manager be able to enter into contracts without the approval of the Board.
According to the proposed ordinance, the county manager would take over many of the responsibilities that the county chairman now has. The county manager would be chosen by the majority of the commissioners and would work at their will. The county manager would be the direct supervisor of all departments and department heads, submit an annual budget to the commissioners for approval and keep them apprised of the finances of the county. The county manager would attend all meetings of the Board of Commissioners and would fulfill other duties as assigned by them.
Budde said that the county chairman would become the chairman of the Board and would receive a salary equal to the other commissioners. He said it would be set up much the same way that the Boards of Education are with the boards hiring a superintendent to do the daily running of the school system and the boards addressing questions of policy and planning.
“I think that the biggest mistake that we make as individuals is not being open minded and just thinking about things before we react,” Budde said.
Neumann continued yelling at the commissioners telling them that they should not be considering adding another salary at this time.
“Do y’all not read the paper? The COVID expenses and you’re taking about another salary, a higher salary,” she said. “What bubble do you live in?”
Her comment was met with scattered applause.
Kevin Boulton, a member of the Haralson County Development Authority, said his understanding was that through the referendum, it would be the people who would decide whether the county government would change, not the commissioners.
“They’re actually giving us the power to go, no or yes,” Boulton said. “Why would we say no to that?”
Neumann shouted out that the timing is wrong.
Boulton said sarcastically to Neumann, “I appreciate you for speaking for all of us, all the time.”
She ignored his sarcasm.
“Thank you,” Neumann said. “Because some people like you need to be educated.”
Commissioners also discussed a referendum to allow package sales of beer, wine and distilled beverages on Sundays. Ridley, as the owner of local convenience stores, abstained from the discussion.
They heard that Judge Mark Murphy, who had been paying into the county retirement program for 20 years would not receive the retirement benefits unless they added the juvenile judge to the retirement program retroactively.
The next County Commission meeting is scheduled for Nov. 3. However, since it is election day and the Recreation Center will be in use as a polling place, details of the meeting will be announced on the county website.