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Commissioners hear evidence of Patton in closed meeting

Decatur County Commissioners paid for an attorney to conduct an investigation into the county administrator and his administration, then heard a presentation of those allegations and conclusions behind closed doors Tuesday.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Butch Mosely said the attorney—Jay Powell, who is also a Republican state representative from Camilla—gave the oral presentation to the commissioners.

“Powell gave a report on the allegations, and that they were unfounded and not corroborated,” Mosely said. When asked what the report was about, Mosely said there were “Allegations regarding Mr. Patton and his administration, and that’s about as far as I will go there.”

The presentation lasted about 45 minutes. Commissioners went into closed session shortly after 10 a.m. and resumed the open meeting at 11:19 a.m.

When the open meeting resumed, Mosely said no disciplinary action would be taken.

Patton was not present in the room during the closed meeting; Commissioner Earl Perry was absent from the meeting but knew about the investigation.

“I received the report and we all agreed to abide by it,” Mosely said, adding. “Accept it and move on.”

Commission Vice Chairman Charles Stafford said the commissioners wanted an independent, unbiased investigation into allegations and rumors of Patton and his management of the county staff. Some of allegations somewhat stemmed from a private citizen, Terry Ellis, who put together a package of information and distributed copies of it to certain commissioners and to The Post-Searchlight and bainbridgega.com.

Commissioner Russell Smith said, “All the allegations were unfounded and there was nothing to discipline him (Patton) on.” In fact, some of the allegations went back four years ago.

Smith said Powell had told the commissioners during the closed meeting that unless the commission especially wanted a written document, that he would just give them the report orally. None of the commissioners had requested a written report, thus avoiding releasing the report under the state’s Open Records laws.

“Really and truly, I would want it to be published,” Smith said. “Why be so secretive about it?”

Powell is charging the county $200 an hour to conduct his investigation. Powell has not sent in his invoice yet so the amount of hours is not yet known by county personnel, County Attorney Brown Moseley said.

Chairman Mosely said attorney Moseley advised the commissioners to go into closed session.

“I know that our attorney advised us to go into executive session and that’s all I can say,” Commissioner Mosely said. “I thought we were doing the right thing.”

Under Georgia’s Open Meeting Law, excluded proceedings are “Meetings when discussion or deliberating upon the appointment, employment, compensation, hiring, disciplinary action or dismissal, or periodic evaluation or rating of a public officer or employee, but not when receiving evidence or hearing arguments on charges filed to determine disciplinary action or dismissal of public officer or employee.”

On June 16, the Board of Commissioners voted 5-1 to extend Patton’s contract for a year, even though the contract was not drawn up and the item was not on the agenda.

Mosely voted against the extension, which he said the item was “sprung on” the commissioners, and because of the process used.

“A vote on Mr. Patton’s contract was not on the agenda, was not mentioned to me or some other board members prior to the executive session and was not the initial subject for the executive session. Therefore, I felt the process was flawed and cast the negative vote. I thought the proper procedure would have been to do the contract at a future meeting with the renewal being a listed item on the agenda with opportunity for public input.”

Patton was hired by the Decatur County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 1, 2006.