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Candidates challenge Hall board's closed discussion

Gibbs, Lutz send letter to county over executive session

POSTED: September 14, 2010 12:25 a.m.

Commission hopefuls Scott Gibbs and Craig Lutz are challenging the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ move to authorize $3 million in sales tax dollars toward the Glades Reservoir project.

In a letter sent to County Administrator Charley Nix, Gibbs and Lutz questioned the validity of a commission decision in executive session and requested the matter be taken up publicly.

Gibbs and Lutz claim that on Wednesday, the commissioners agreed in an executive session to pay for about $3 million in permitting costs for Glades Reservoir with a line of credit, until enough special purpose local option sales tax dollars are collected.

At the Thursday board meeting, Chairman Tom Oliver announced the commission had discussed the negotiations in executive session.

According to the Georgia Open Meetings Act, governments may only go into a closed-door executive session to discuss three things: potential litigation, personnel issues and land acquisition.

Hall County’s legal counsel advised the board members the discussion fell under the category of potential litigation; Lutz and Gibbs dispute that.

“I’d be more than happy to vote it at the next commission meeting if that clears the record,” Oliver said Monday.
Gibbs, who is running unopposed for Steve Gailey’s District 3 seat, said his purpose with the letter was to make sure the commission’s actions were legal.

“In three months, I’m going into office and I am going to have to pay for that,” said Gibbs, who wants to have the matter discussed and voted on in public.

Lutz, who faces Democrat Paul Wayne Godfrey for the District 1 spot on the board, said he questions why the county held the Glades Reservoir discussion in executive session.

“I hate to say it, but (Hall County) has a history,” Lutz said. “The public needs a sense of confidence on what the commission is doing.”

Nix responded with his own letter later in the day.

“I understand that being a fresh face on the board, you are skeptical of the existing leadership. But before you crucify us all, I invite you to take the time to learn the intricate workings of our operation and meet the hard-working, honest people who make up Hall County government,” Nix wrote in his letter.

At issue is negotiations between Hall County and the owners of the Glades Farm property, where the proposed reservoir is to be built.

Oliver said the county has always agreed to reimburse the Glades property owners for costs expended in the permitting process for the reservoir. What was discussed in executive session was paying less of the costs up front and more following the issuance of the federal permit for the construction of the reservoir.

The county has been reviewing the reservoir plans, which date back to the early ’90s, and negotiating which charges — for engineering and consulting services, among others — are directly tied to the permitting process and should be paid for by Hall County.

“It’s basically an ongoing contract negotiation and we’re discussing partial payment,” Nix said. “We’re having to verify every document and invoice that they have presented to us.”



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