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Commission does the right thing by voting in the open
Whether anyone pops up out of a chair to shout an indictment of “that’s illegal” or not laws, be them local, state or federal, are in place for the benefit of all, not just pesky newspaper people.
One local governing board just got that memorandum.
Tuesday morning the Screven County Commission rectified an error in judgment and it is time to take another baby step toward solid progress in our community.
By this point, most of you have heard that the commissioners chose to vote in secret ballot last week for three spots on what recently has become quite a popular seat on the Industrial Development Authority board.
For those of you who missed it, the commissioners voted by a show of hands for two other spots on the IDA board when a couple current members chose to resign. Those seats were given to sitting members whose terms were on the verge of expiring. The commissioners, however, opted to violate the Georgia open meetings law with a secret ballot for the other three seats. The reason given for going the secret-ballot route to choose from 19 new applicants for a no-pay volunteer appointment was because the commissioners did not want to hurt people’s feelings.
The commissioners went against their own county attorney’s advice June 15 that secret ballots are a violation. Board members say they never intended to evade the law, but rather wanted the other 16 residents to stay interested in community action boards.
But breaking the Georgia state open meeting law is the wrong way to keep people attracted to the notion of working in tandem with you on crucial county issues.
Commissioners, each of you took an oath when you were elected to uphold the law and not skim around it.
If any of you feel the burning urge to go “secret ballot” again, just erase the thought. Besides it being illegal, it is wrong to send smoke screens to hide decisions from the public. So do not do a secret ballot vote for another appointment, or the election of a board chair and vice chairperson.
I want Screven County to become an even better community. Not one where people go to a summertime gathering and say something like “Can you believe what they did!? What are they thinking?”
I commend the commission for rescinding its previous secret ballot vote and appointing the trio of new members to the IDA board Tuesday. Let’s all move forward.
Although I know that the commissioners will not have me at the top of their Christmas shopping list for quite a while, I want you to know that the Sylvania Telephone office did receive positive comments from dozens of residents about our coverage last week of the commission vote.
While the Telephone did stand up for the citizens of Screven County on this violation of state law, it bothered me that people said to me repeatedly “I am glad somebody stood up to them.”
Yes, I have been brash recently toward the commission about these open meetings, but only a few people want to put the time into being a county commissioner. Case in point – three commission seats are on this year’s election ballot, however, only one of the incumbents will face opposition in the fall.
I continuously hear from the voices in the crowd who perceive that individuals who sit on various boards in our community say they want new business to come into Screven -- if you ask those board members face-to-face -- but in reality those seat-holders don’t want an economic jolt here.
To paraphrase, elected and appointed officials have not done enough to assure the citizens of Screven County that a quality future exists in our Southeast corner of Georgia.
It may be summer in South Georgia, but the sun is not the only provider of heat these days. Citizens are putting the heat on our elected officials.
For those of you of this thinking, please step back for a moment and cast your eyes into the mirror. For change to occur in our community, it is imperative that you become part of the equation.
It certainly was a breath of fresh air to hear that 19 citizens applied to become members of the IDA board. That is a “shout it from the mountaintops” caliber of indication that you care and you are willing to do what is necessary to make a difference.
But we must have more of that type of community input. The planning and zoning board is an option to get involved. In January, another seat on the IDA board will need a commission appointment.
Bettering Screven County is a project for everyone. Let’s move forward together.
Enoch Autry is the publisher-editor of the Sylvania Telephone.