Thumbing their noses

Published 8:33 am Saturday, June 28, 2014

There’s a saying about the weather in Decatur County. If you don’t like the weather, just wait a while and it will change. It seems this saying also applies to the Decatur County Board of Commissioners.

If you don’t think they could make any worse decisions, just wait a while.

At Tuesday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting, a decision was made that is the worst case of abuse of power and unethical behavior that I have seen in recent years. And it shows the commission’s disregard of public sentiment and public desires.

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Eschewing the long-standing historical protocol of appointing the county attorney at the first meeting of January each year, this commission decided to make the decision mid-year and appoint Brown Moseley as the county’s attorney for a period of 18-months, expiring on December 31, 2015.

At the same meeting, they also extended the county administrator Gary Breedlove’s contract, also to expire on December 31, 2015.

This motion to contract with Moseley passed by a 5-1 vote; Russell Smith was the only commissioner who, evidently, saw the misguided nature of the appointment. Of the five commissioners who voted in favor of the extension, three—Frank Loeffler, Jan Godwin, and Oliver Sellers– will not be on the commission beginning in January and another—Butch Moseley–spends 5/7ths of his week in Dougherty County running the school system.

Both Jan Godwin and Oliver Sellers were beaten soundly in the last election and Frank Loeffler chose not to run for re-election. Yet, all three felt the need to preemptively make this decision for their successors.

Half of the commission will turn over in January. With the two incumbents losing re-election, that’s an indication that voters in those districts were not happy with the current course of the commission. Those voters chose someone else to make decisions for the county. That chance, at least relative to choosing a county attorney, has been taken away from George Anderson, new commissioner in District 1, Pete Stephens, new commissioner in District 6, and either Rusty Davis or Joe Putnal in District 4.

They thumbed their noses at the Decatur County electorate and basically said, “We’ll do what we want because we can.”

And, for good measure, the commission inserted a $50,000 severance penalty payable to Moseley in one lump sum into the contract should the county desire to terminate the agreement before the expiration date. This clause had not been included in previous agreements between Moseley and Decatur County. An identical severance clause was included in Breedlove’s contract.

There are also questions about the legality of the inclusion of such a monetary clause in Moseley’s contract.

I spoke with Frank Loeffler, current lame duck commission chairman, and asked about the motivation of making this appointment mid-year and he could offer no real reason other than, “I felt it was the right thing to do.” He said the next commission would be able to make a decision on a county attorney in 18 months.

The motivation is crystal clear. These current commissioners felt there was a chance that the newly seated commission might desire for someone other than Moseley to be the county attorney, or for that matter, someone other than Breedlove to serve as county administrator. And, for whatever reason, five of the commissioners didn’t want that to happen.

I also found it strange that Loeffler indicated that Moseley himself drafted this contract and no other legal advice was sought. This flies in the face of the idea of an arm’s length relationship.

It’s a shame that what had been a very productive and positive meeting Tuesday night ended with such a misguided, illogical, and unethical action. I am not saying Moseley should or shouldn’t be the county attorney in 2015. It’s not my decision, nor is it this commission’s decision. The new commission in January should have made that decision.