At Issue: Are out-of-town retreats necessary for local government?


LAST WEEK: SHOULD THERE BE A LAW OUTLINING COUNTY COMMISSIONERS’ AUTHORITY?

An ongoing dispute between Henry County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tommy Smith and the other five district commissioners regarding the scope of Smith’s authority has become a major issue. Smith filed suit in November in an attempt to clarify the issue, and the rest of the board voted in December to ask the county’s legislative delegation to submit legislation in that regard. Local officials expect a bill to be passed shortly.

Here is what some readers had to say about the matter:

As a longtime resident of Henry County, I am appalled to see the bickering within our county commission. I thought our county had moved beyond the days of a "one man band." Our board of commissioners was elected to conduct county business and not have anyone form a political empire. The days of "Boss Hogg" are long gone and our officials need to take care of business. We should have moved on politically from taking one step forward and two steps back. — Joan Jones

Get this. The Henry County Legislative delegation sends out weekly updates on what is going on at the Capitol during the week. We have received three so far, and guess how many times that they have brought up this important issue. Zero! That's right, not one single time have they revealed that they are planning on pushing this change in elected Henry County government through the legislature. Where is the openness and transparency? Where is the discussion? Only behind closed doors? — lucy_belle777

You left out the part where when the county manager was appointed. It was done so by a last minute called meeting by the five district commissioners with virtually no notice given to the public and while chairman smith was out of town and could not be there to discuss or vote on it. This was and is a coup of the chairman's authority and for all intents and purposes will nullify the votes of the citizens who elected him. — Joanie Scott

The chairman’s duties were created years ago and voted on by referendum by the people of Henry County and to take those duties and votes away from the citizens of Henry County is wrong. The problem began right after Chairman Smith took office the other commissioners did not like his way of running the chairman’s seat and they worked then to try and counter him, but it failed.

It is something that is inherently wrong to take away the votes of the citizens who wanted the position of the Chairman and its duties that go with it. There are a couple of commissioners who want to rule and run the board as they want and hire a county manager that they can hold the puppet strings upon.

That is the crux of the problem. But if the legislators do anything that goes against what the voters wanted when the position was created then their own seats are in jeopardy because the people have good memories when it comes to what they do to them. Food for thought. — pastormikemoon

The problem with them good ol' boys down in Henry County is they want it to be run like Hazzard County, and all of 'em want to be Boss Hogg. — Anonymous

Monroe Roark for the AJC

Over the last several years, Powder Springs officials travel to the North Georgia mountains, usually in March, to spend a few days at the state-owned Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris for their annual planning retreat. They are set for another retreat early next month, also at Brasstown Valley.

During their March 2014 retreat, city officials spent $8,608, according to then City Clerk Dawn Davis, who retired in December. Costs were $3,673 for lodging and the meeting facility, $3,400 for the facilitator from The University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute, $692 for meals, $480 for mileage reimbursement and $363 for audio-visual equipment.

The March 2011 retreat included not only Mayor Patricia Vaughn and the city council but also the city’s seven planning and zoning commission members. Vaughn said they were attending an Atlanta Regional Commission training session as a requirement for the commission members.

“We have to get away with no distractions so that we can work day and night,” Vaughn said in 2012. In addition to the March 2012 retreat, Vaughn, three city council members and then Interim City Manager Brad Hulsey attended two days of all-day classes on Municipal Finance in August 2012 at Brasstown Valley. Hulsey said the city’s cost was $3,250, including two nights of lodging, with more than 60 city officials present from throughout the state to attend these classes offered by the Georgia Municipal Association through the Carl Vinson Institute.

Although many cities hold planning retreats, do you think city officials should travel out of town for them? Do you think is the best use of taxpayer money or is there a better alternative? What do you think? Submit comments here or email them to communitynews@ajc.com.