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Chairman Oliver keeps his voting powers
Lutz is only commissioner to oppose decision
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Also at Thursday's meeting

Grading to finish at Cool Springs
Grading work will finish at the site for the proposed Cool Springs park in West Hall to honor the contract. Staff will research constructing baseball fields on the property.

Craig to stay on Glades project
Tommy Craig will stay on as attorney for the Glades Farm Reservoir project. Craig said he will renegotiate his fees with Hall County within the next 30 days.

Nopone facility to be ‘digital library'
The board voted to turn the space intended for a library at the Nopone Road park into a digital library. The building will contain computers and workspace.

Hall to seek local lawyer

County chairman addresses controversies

 

Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver will keep his power to make and second motions and deliberate actions after an effort to strip those powers failed Thursday.

Following passionate comments from county residents, the commissioners agreed by a 4-1 vote to remove the item from the agenda and let Oliver continue to serve as he has since he was first elected six years ago. Commissioner Craig Lutz was the only dissenting vote.

Oliver was prepared to fight any move to strip him of his powers. He hired an attorney, William Droze, to represent him at Thursday's meeting.

At Monday's work session, Lutz proposed a change to Hall County code that would take away the chairman's ability to make motions, second motions and deliberate in meetings.

At Thursday's board meeting, the commission held a public hearing and listened to comments from about a half-dozen residents before taking a vote. All but one resident opposed the effort to sanction Oliver.

Phyllis Mercer, a South Hall resident, spoke out against the efforts to reduce Oliver's power.

"There is no logic for changing the role of the chairman," Mercer said. "The chairman is elected by all the residents of this county, a greater base than any of you in your own districts. Should the voters take issue with the chairman's actions, we are free to go to the polls and express our opinion in the American way."

Other residents also spoke in support of Oliver, and some took Lutz and commissioners Ashley Bell and Scott Gibbs to task for decisions they made earlier this month to dismiss four top county officials.

On Jan. 6, the three voted not to renew the contracts of County Administrator Charley Nix, Assistant County Administrator Phil Sutton, Finance Director Michaela Thompson and County Attorney Bill Blalock.

"We had four good people that were terminated from their jobs," said resident Mandy Harris. "I don't see that gathering the three of y'all together before the first meeting ever happened, before there was ever conversation between all five people, to throw out the top people in our government, I think that was underhanded ... The public is watching to see what's going on and we are not happy with it."

During his comments, Droze told commissioners that the board's efforts to strip Oliver's powers were contrary to its decision to adopt Robert's Rules of Order as the standard for meeting procedure.

Droze said the newly revised edition of Robert's Rules of Order gives a chairman the same voting powers as other commissioners. Additionally, past versions of Hall County's governing laws give the chairman the right to vote on all agenda items, not solely during ties.

Only one resident spoke in favor of reducing the chairman's powers: Joe Schuebert, a Clermont resident who filed an ethics complaint against Oliver in the governor's office in 2010. He pointed to Oliver's past issues, such as authorizing the payment of a consultant without full commission approval, as a sign that the chairman of the board has too much power.

"The vote to not award the chairman these privileges is the action that this commission must take to regain control of this body on behalf of all the people of Hall County," Schuebert said. "This is not action that should wait for another chairman as some have suggested."

Following the public comment period, Bell made a motion to remove the item from the agenda.

Commissioner Billy Powell hastily raised his hand to second the motion. The commission voted 4-1 to allow Oliver to retain his current powers.

A lot has changed for Oliver over the last year. In March, a group of residents attempted to recall him from office. They collected the 100 signatures required during the application process, but only 98 could be verified, ending their ability to proceed with the petition for recall.

Now a group is considering a recall of Lutz, although an effort to recall him can't officially be made until his has been in office for six months.

 

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