County seeks new admin soon

Published 12:49 pm Friday, March 2, 2012

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners agreed Thursday to name an interim county administrator within the next 10 days, following former County Administrator Tom Patton’s resignation from the post Tuesday evening.

During Thursday evening’s called board meeting, the board also approved how Patton’s job duties will be handled, in the time period between his resignation and the naming of an interim administrator. Patton resigned Tuesday evening, amid a controversy that he had not properly reported a sewage spill at the Decatur County wastewater plant in February 2011.

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After approximately 20 minutes of discussion among the commissioners, Board Chairman C.T. Stafford asked for a motion to be made that would enable him to temporarily serve in the county administrator role for anytime a signature is required, such as sick-leave notes and agreements with other agencies. That motion was made and approved unanimously.

The board also approved allowing Finance Director Carl Rowland and commissioners’ finance committee to handle any day-to-day financial purchases that typically require the approval of the county administrator. Finally, the board approved for a three-team committee, consisting of Stafford, Vice Chairman Russell Smith and Brown Moseley, to serve in the county administrator’s role for personnel related disputes — such as termination hearings and disciplinary actions.

Stafford cautioned that this transitional period will be as short as possible, as the county will immediately begin a search for an interim county administrator, and hopefully have one in place within 10 days.

“We have a consensus that we will put this matter on an expedited path,” he said.

Stafford said the pool of interim administrator candidates will likely include Decatur County natives, but will also include suggestions from groups like the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) and the Carl Vinson Institute of the University of Georgia. Both the ACCG and Carl Vinson Institute maintain lists of qualified candidates — who are typically retired government administrators — that can quickly fill interim roles.

During the meeting, Commissioner Butch C. “David” Mosely recommended that Gary Breedlove, a retired Air Force colonel and former director of the Bainbridge High School Air Force ROTC, would be a viable candidate for the interim administrator.

The board also agreed to quickly draft its job description and other requirements, and immediately advertise for Patton’s permanent successor. However, most commissioners agreed that the county needed to take its time.

“We need to take a very long and hard look and go through the whole process, and take our time and hire the best manager that could possibly be had,” Commissioner Oliver Sellers said. “I’m not in any hurry, whatsoever.”

Commissioner Dr. Earl Perry was unable to attend Thursday’s meeting, but did listen and comment via speakerphone. Perry is recovering from a recent illness.


Commissioners disagree about details of spill

Earlier in the meeting, Stafford invited all five commissioners to make comments considering the sewage spill controversy. At times, the commissioners contradicted each other and were argumentative.

In one exchange, Stafford and Mosely debated about the size of the spill.

“We had 168,000 gallons on one day, and it ran for approximately three more days before they got the pipeline stopped,” Mosely said. “The plant superintendent told me two days ago that he had a million gallons that he couldn’t account for.”

“That information is still unquantifiable,” Stafford responded. “We can only deal with estimates and approximations.”

“That’s voodoo math,” Mosely said. “Multiply 8.5 hours by 350 gallons a minute. That’s what our engineer told you.”

Also during the meeting, Mosely accused Smith of lying about earlier public comments that Patton should have never been fired. During the public participation portion of the meeting, Decatur County citizen Claude Shirley asked Smith point-blank if Patton should have been fired.

“I think we should have held him accountable for what he did, but he did not deserve termination,” Smith said, in response to Shirley’s question.

Later, Mosely insinuated that Smith did believe Patton should have been terminated Tuesday night.

“What was the statement that you made to Mr. Sellers, [Commissioner Frank] Loeffler and me back in that back room Tuesday night?” Mosely asked. “I remember exactly the statement you made: ‘Mr. Patton should be terminated, but I gave Mr. Stafford my word [not to vote for Patton’s termination].’”

Smith responded, “No sir, I did not say that,” but Loeffler and Sellers both agreed that Smith did.

“You’d given your word to Dr. Stafford that you would not vote against him,” Loeffler said.

Smith denied that he had ever made such a statement.

“I still say that I did not make that statement that he should be terminated,” Smith said.

“Three said that you did,” Mosely replied. “I rest my case.”