Hall County Administrator Charley Nix said Tuesday he will propose new procedures to better keep track of expenditures by the county, just a day after Chairman Tom Oliver admitted authorizing payments to a consultant without board approval.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed it has been in contact with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office after citizens complained to the sheriff about improprieties in county government, but it said no formal investigation has been started.
And a group of citizens has taken the first step toward recalling Oliver from office.
Oliver said at the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ Monday work session that he had hired former Gainesville City Manger Carlyle Cox as a consultant for water and sewer issues, paying him between $1,500 and $1,800 per month since 2006 without full board approval.
Oliver said he made the decision on his own and accepted the responsibility for it.
But at Tuesday’s Kiwanis Club meeting, Nix, who was the guest speaker, said that he sees the controversy as an opportunity to improve procedures in the future.
“When things like this come up, it forces you to be introspective,” Nix said. “I feel like we’ve always had good controls in place but something like this squirts out and then it causes you to look again.”
Nix said no specifics have yet been discussed, but some changes could be coming to the way spending takes place.
“I look at it as a challenge, and I know that’s a little bit trite, but it’s an opportunity for us to get better and to look at different ways,” Nix said. “It’s this constant search for discovering the best and most efficient checks and balances.”
Also on Tuesday, Col. Jeff Strickland of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the office has referred at least two citizens to the GBI following complaints of impropriety on the commission.
“They have a specialized unit that investigates these type of allegations,” Strickland said.
Commissioner Bobby Banks has also said he would support a GBI audit of the county’s finances to uncover any other spending for which the board has not been informed.
Mike Ayers, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Cleveland office, confirmed that his office is aware of the requests, but he said the agency has not had time to review the information.
“I have been in contact with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office,” Ayers said. “At this time we have not opened an investigation, but that is not to say we’re not going to.”
Some residents look at Oliver’s announcement as another reason why changes are needed in county government. On Tuesday, two South Hall residents, Robin Carlisle and Kim James, began the process of an official recall for Oliver by picking up an application for recall from the Hall County elections office.
“He needs to resign,” Carlisle said. “If he doesn’t, we’ll help him resign.”
If the two women can get 100 signatures on the application from residents who were registered to vote in the November 2008 election, the last one Oliver was in, they’ll be giving a recall petition. The petition must be signed by 30 percent of the registered voters in 2008 in order to have the recall election called. To get a recall election of Oliver, a petition with 25,503 valid signatures must be presented.
“It’s a daunting task but I’m going to try to do it,” James said. “We need to start standing up against corruption in our government.”
Oliver welcomed the efforts.
“I’ll always defend people’s right to second guess what goes on with their tax money,” Oliver said. “I cherish that myself. One time when I didn’t like what happened, I ran for the office.”