New Clayton County Commissioners fire County Manager, fund forensic audit

A few new Commissioners on a five-member board is producing significant changes in Clayton County. What changes will the new Lowndes County Commissioners make?

Tammy Joyner write for the AJC Election results usher in period of change for Clayton,

The new County Commission set the tone this week by ushering in a raft of changes aimed at creating better accountability in Clayton’s finances while putting greater control in the hands of the new chairman. The board removed County Manager Wade Starr, a long-time kingmaker in Clayton politics, and will bring in a chief financial officer to manage county finances.

The balance of power clearly has swung to newly elected Commissioners Jeff Turner and Shana Rooks. Turner, who replaces Eldrin Bell as chairman, and Rooks, who defeated Wole Ralph, teamed with returning Commissioner Michael Edmondson to create a new voting bloc on the five-member board, and they appear intent on taking swift action.

“They hit the ground running,” said Carl Swensson, chairman of the Clayton County Citizens Oversight Committee. “The former power triumvirate has been absolutely shattered. We’re going to have good people in position where they can do the most good for this county. You’re going to find a more receptive ear in the new structure.”

Naturally the remaining old guard took issue:

Returning Commissioner Gail Hambrick, who now finds herself outside the new voting majority, questioned the board’s decisions this week to create two new positions and spring for a forensic audit, which could costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“A lot has gone on,” Turner told the commissioners in defense of his request of the comprehensive audit. “I need to be comfortable about what’s going on in the finance department.”

Swensson applauded Turner’s stance. “They may have to spend a little bit more money to save some money,” he said.

The new Lowndes County Commission is now a five-member board with two new members plus a new non-voting Chairman. It can choose to do things differently if it wants to. So far, it’s business as usual, with, for example, no indication in the agenda of what property the Industrial Authority wants to buy. One could argue that real estate transactions are executive session matters, but in that case, what is that item doing on the public meeting agenda?

Here are a few ideas they’re pursuing in Clayton County. Curt Yeomans wrote for Clayton News Daily 27 December 2012, BOC’s Turner, Rooks pledge transparency in government,

They said a forensic audit of the county’s finances and resources, as well as the assembling of an ethics panel to oversee the behavior of commissioners are two of their top initial goals. Those steps would help them do their jobs, but it would also improve the commission’s transparency with the public, they indicated.

“Anything that makes the citizens of District 3 and the county feel like they’re connected, their voices matter and they understand what’s going on in government, that’s what I want,” Rooks said. She added she wants to see television and live Internet broadcasts of commission meetings so more citizens can see the governing board in action.

Hm, “like they’re connected, their voices matter and they understand what’s going on in government”. Would that be different from an unsigned letter informing 5,000 county citizens their voices were ignored?