Taxpayer advocate won't fight Milton County anymore

In an act of protest, taxpayer advocate John Sherman has quit a group formed to stop Milton County secession.

Sherman, president of the Buckhead-based Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation, said it's because the Fulton commission has yet to adopt any of the cost-cutting recommendations by two of its own blue ribbon committees and a legislative subcommittee.

"Not a single one," said Sherman, whose foundation estimates that the committees' unanimous suggestion would cut expenditures by 38 percent. "That's anarchy. Unless we accommodate the residents of north Fulton, we will become divided, as we are now, de facto."

Earlier this week, he sent a e-mail to all seven commissioners resigning from the One Fulton County advisory committee, formed by Chairman John Eaves in 2009. The gesture gives a symbolic boost to the Milton movement, as last year Sherman was one of the strongest lobbyists against the House bill that would pave the way for Milton to re-form.

"I think as time passes, more and more people are going to understand the tyranny that has been placed upon north Fulton," said Michael Fitzgerald, a member of the Milton County Legislative Advisory Committee.

The House measure has been re-introduced this legislative session, with all 10 north Fulton senators and representatives dropping their own bills. The breakup of Georgia's largest county would subtract hundreds of millions of dollars from the general fund and school system. Buckhead leaders oppose the idea, fearing it would make their affluent area the county's new cash mine.

Commissioners contend that Fulton is one of the best-run, most efficient county governments in the state. The recommendations Sherman is referencing date back to 2006 and 2008.

"Some of the recommendations have already been acted upon," Eaves said. "Some of them are irrelevant. Some of them, it takes the legislature to act upon, not the county."

Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition and a One Fulton committee member, said he's disappointed with the commission, too, but he doesn't think quitting is the answer.

"That doesn't change the damage that Milton secession would do to the City of Atlanta," he said.

Staff writer Pat Fox contributed to this article.