Who is in the Dark?

Based on September Work Session discussion, Commissioners and the Public Kept in the Dark, was clearly read by Lumpkin County Commissioners.  Several members of the public have thanked me for bringing up the fact that so little information and discussion has been available to the public during Work Sessions.

The discussion of work session agendas was brought up by Commissioner Bowden.  He stated that he needed more than one day to review documents that he would be expected to ask questions about and discuss during a work session.  County Manager Stan Kelley pointed out that the purpose of a work session was to answer commissioners’ questions.

The discussion at that point degenerated into something like ..these new commissioners just don’t have the background in all these things that some of us do, so maybe they need more time.  The obligation to discuss items for the edification of the public and staff were totally ignored.

I mention “staff” because several members of county staff have told me they don’t know much of what’s going on since they are no longer attend meetings the way they used to.

Chairman Raber proposed sending a Temporary Agenda to commissioners seven days before the meeting.  Surely this would include all proposed documentation.  It is truly amazing  that this is not already being done.

Bowden also proposed having Work Sessions in the evening so more of the public could attend.  This was quickly nixed because it would require paying overtime to staff required to attend.  This makes one wonder if staff was paid overtime back when every department head was required to attend and give a report during evening Commission Meetings.

Commissioners Scott and Raber both commented that it didn’t matter when meetings were held, the public would never attend unless there was something that directly affected them on the agenda.

In my opinion, evening work sessions are going a bit overboard.  But a request to timely receive information so a commissioner could be prepared to ask questions of staff should have been a no-brainer.  Doing homework and being prepared for meetings ought to be the norm.

Chairman Raber brought up allegations of commissioners “being kept in the dark” and asked each commissioner if he was kept in the dark.  None would admit it in public; but Commissioner Stowers did ask Raber, “You mean by you?”

It will be refreshing if our commissioners have enough information in the future to answer questions with something other than, “I don’t know.”  As I see it, the “I don’t know” response is clear evidence of being in the dark.  They may find an audience when they present intelligent discussion by commissioners who know what they are talking about.

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