Representative, Councilman Joust At Monday’s Council Meeting
Rep. Tommy Benton and Ward 4 Commerce Councilman Bob Sosebee got into a testy exchange Monday night when Benton showed up at the city council meeting to refute remarks Sosebee had made in the May 5 work session.
At that time, Sosebee complained that he didn’t think Benton was doing a good job in regard to getting local funds and compared his ability to “bring back money” to that of former Rep. Bubba McDonald.
At Monday night’s council meeting, Benton said he’d heard that a city council member had been critical. Sosebee acknowledged he’d made the comments, and the two began arguing.
Sosebee told Benton that he’d gone over a printout of local development fund money and found that Commerce got $5,000 and Jefferson $4,000.
“I just said it looks like we should have gotten our fair share, and I don’t think truthfully $9,000 out of multi-millions of dollars worth of grants is not a fair share,” he said.
“You also compared me to Rep. McDonald and I want to point out that when he was getting all that money he was chair of the Appropriations Committee, which I am not chair of,” Benton replied. “If you look at all those grants and see who got all that money, you will see the people who are chairman of the appropriations committee or the majority leader, that are the speaker of the house. They got the dollars. I was able to get what I was able to get. The city of Commerce did not request any money from me or ask me to get any money.”
Sosebee then attacked Benton for his support of House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s controversial “GREAT Plan” to remove local governments’ ability to levy property taxes.
“I thought since you voted with the speaker on his GREAT Plan, he didn’t show you or us much respect,” Sosebee said. “You said that you have to be all these chairmen, but rather than voting with the local communities, the school board and the county, you decided to vote with the speaker.”
Benton fired back.
“I don’t just represent the city council of Commerce, I represent all the citizens of Jackson County and part of Hall County, and 75 percent or the e-mails that came to me were requesting that I vote for that,” he said. “You can sit up there and say that’s not what we need, but that was what the citizens were asking for.”
It was Sosebee’s turn.
“If you think that was good for the citizens of the city, the county, the children in the school system, you’re badly mistaken,” he said. “I didn’t think you did a very good job, and I think statewide the people from newspapers on down didn’t think the legislature did a good job.”
Benton: “I would ask all the city council members and all the heads of the departments, has there been any time you’ve communicated with me and I haven’t responded to you? Mr. Bryant, is there any time that you wrote me a letter and asked me for support with anything the city was wanting to do that I did not respond and did not try to help you any way I could?”
The conversation, none of which had to do with any business before the city council, went back and forth over the merits or lack thereof of the GREAT Plan and local vs. state control. Finally, Benton closed it.
“To the rest of the city council, any time you need to contact me, you feel free to do so,” he said. “I have responded to you. I have tried to help in any way I can. I’ve tried to help all the cities in Jackson County any way that I can. I just felt like I needed to come by and answer Mr. Sosebee’s remarks that I haven’t done a very good job. I think I’ve done a very good job representing the people of Jackson County.”