Jackson County Opinions...

July 16, 2003

By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
July 16, 2003

The 3Bs Make
A Case For Their
Own Recall
If anyone is interested in recalling the Jackson County Commissioners, three of them provided just cause for removal last Friday.
There is some sentiment for recalling all five commissioners over the courthouse issue, but I think the 3Bs – Tony Beatty, Emil Beshara and Stacey Britt – violated their oath of office last Friday when they voted to appoint Wanda David to the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority.
David has a massive conflict of interest. She and the authority's manager, Jerry Waddell, had a five-year personal relationship that ended in great anger – including a lawsuit that is still pending.
And whatever the 3Bs may say, that is exactly why David was appointed to the authority. Her main qualification in the eyes of the 3Bs is that she can make Waddell's life miserable enough that he will quit.
Leading the 3Bs in hypocrisy is Emil Beshara, who many times has spoken on the need for each commissioner to be able to appoint someone of like philosophy to the various boards and authorities upon being elected to office. He proved very willing to surrender principle to achieve his long-held goal of getting Waddell out of this job. Beatty and Britt had no principle to surrender.
Thomason appeared angry at the 3Bs for breaking with tradition and filling the "District 2" vacancy with their own person, but there will be speculation as to how upset he really was. Until we find that he and Chairman Harold Fletcher were co-conspirators in this maneuver, only the 3Bs warrant recall on this issue.
The three have again demonstrated what citizens have come to see as the trademark of this BOC, that they will sacrifice principle to achieve their political goals, be they the reasonable aspiration of building a courthouse in an unreasonable location or the firing of a political adversary.
The drive to fire Waddell has nothing to do with his competence or lack thereof at his job, but everything to do with personal animosity. It closely parallels the method by which the commissioners chose the location on which they want to build the courthouse – a decision based on political rather than practical criteria. In neither case did the welfare of the public or the county government as a whole enter into the decision-making process.
Indeed, the decision to build a courthouse on Darnell Road is illogical, but what makes it stink – and really matter – is that it was based on politics. Voters are more likely to forgive mistakes honestly made in the pursuit of good governance than they are the sacrificing of the public good to achieve political retribution.
The “Concerned Citizens of Jackson County” (as opposed to the unconcerned citizens, I guess) have indicated an interest in recalling all five commissioners. These three have just made a case for their own recall, so we’ll see if the CCJC is really serious. Or, maybe they figure they have grounds to go after all five and don’t need additional ammunition.
An election is a year away, but unless they are recalled, Beatty and Beshara are safe three more years. That’s three more years of lousy government that Jackson County can ill afford.

The Jackson Herald
July 16, 2003

The Spartacus effect
In the 1950s, actor Kirk Douglas made the famous movie, “Spartacus,” an epic story from 73 AD about a Roman slave uprising.
At the end of the film, when revolt leader Spartacus (Douglas) and his men were surrounded, the Romans said that if Spartacus gave himself up to die, his followers would be allowed to live.
But one by one, in a show of defiance and solidarity against their abusive Roman masters, each slave stood and declared, “I am Spartacus!”
Last week, 26 citizens of Jackson County stood up to an abusive county government and bravely said, “I am Spartacus!”
In late June, a group of five citizens announced that if the county government proceeded with plans to finance a new courthouse without a public vote on the debt, they would file a lawsuit. The group contends that for the county to create debt without a public vote violates the Georgia Constitution.
The response from the Jackson County Board of Commissioners was swift. Through their Atlanta law firm, the BOC issued a condescending letter to the five citizens, threatening to countersue if the county government were challenged in court about its financing scheme.
But rather than cower and run, as county leaders had hoped, the five citizens stood firm. Indeed, that letter solidified a growing citizens’ anger against an abusive and abrasive county government.
Thus, when the citizens did file their lawsuit late last Thursday, the names on the document had grown from five to 26 citizens.
What is not seen, however, is that behind those 26 citizens stand thousands of others whose names may not be on the paperwork, but who support the stand being taken against county officials.
County leaders, as expected, continue to be in denial about that. They believe that they have the unfettered power to do what they please, the public be damned.
It is time for the citizens of Jackson County to stage an uprising of their own.
Contribute to the funding of the citizens’ lawsuit contesting the $25 million debt scheme being pushed by the BOC. All contributions are confidential.
Talk to friends and neighbors. Let them know about what is happening with their county government.
Attend public meetings to protest how our officials are abusing their positions to inflict damage on county agencies.
Write us letters to the editor to express your views on the conduct of our county officials.
Last week, 26 citizens stepped forward and in a bold act of defiance said, “We are Spartacus!”
What is needed now is a chorus of thousands chanting similar words of defiance until county leaders acknowledge that we are citizens with rights, not slaves to their schemes.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
July 16, 2003

BOC makes a mockery of
public service
Last week, the Jackson County government reached a new low. In naming Wanda David to the county water authority, members of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners debased local political debate beyond anything seen in Jackson County in the last 30 years.
Nothing positive this board has done, or may do in the future, can atone for that sleazy action. No amount of rhetoric will whitewash the grime they have spread across the local political landscape.
Everyone knew, of course, that the BOC would kick off the two members of the water authority whose terms expired this summer. That was foregone in February when the BOC failed in its attempt to take over the water authority.
So it was only a matter of time before members of the BOC began to exact revenge for that political defeat. The first step would be to boot Tom Crow and Keith Ariail off the authority and replace them with two BOC puppets.
But no one would have believed that members of the BOC would stoop so low as to use an ex-lovers’ quarrel as a weapon for their revenge.
For those who have not followed this story, here it is, in all its smarmy detail.
In the mid-1990s, then commission chairman Jerry Waddell engineered the appointment of David to the water authority. He also had her hired as county attorney and as the attorney for the IDA.
It was also during Waddell’s tenure as chairman that he and David began a “personal relationship.” That relationship was, at least in part, at the center of Waddell’s subsequent divorce.
The personal Waddell-David relationship was mostly just grist for the gossip mills. Their professional relationship, however, was grist for political discussions, including a number of critical comments in this space. David’s overlapping and sometimes self-serving entanglements with county government was not good for the county.
After leaving office at the end of 2000, Waddell took the position of water superintendent working under the water authority. (David was no longer on the authority when Waddell was hired.) Waddell’s appointment was a controversial move, one that was bound to bring out critics.
One of those critics was Emil Beshara, who took office as a county commissioner in 2001. Beshara soon set out to get Waddell fired from his position as water superintendent. But he was stymied by an authority that generally supported Waddell.
Earlier this year, Beshara, along with commissioner Stacey Britt, proposed a plan for the BOC to take over the water authority. Beshara wanted to oust Waddell. Britt’s motive was to have more control over decisions about where water and sewer lines are run. (As a developer, that’s an important consideration to Britt’s real estate investments.)
The rest of the BOC agreed to the takeover effort, but to do that required legislative action. Because of a huge outcry from county citizens, the local legislative delegation declined to introduce a bill that would allow a BOC takeover.
Having put much of their political credibility on the line in the takeover effort, the BOC was humiliated by that high-profile defeat. In private, they vowed that when the time came, they would get their revenge, oust Waddell and get control of the authority.
Meanwhile, the personal relationship between Waddell and David soured. An acrimonious split took place. Although not married, the Waddell-David split led to civil litigation between the two, litigation that was only resolved in the last few days.
Beshara, of course, knew all about the Waddell-David relationship, about the acrimonious split-up and about the litigation. So he decided to use David as a political dagger by naming her to the authority, in effect, making her one of Waddell’s bosses. Voting with Beshara to put David at Waddell’s throat was Britt and commissioner Tony Beatty.
The fact that Beshara and his cohorts were injecting a nasty personal vendetta into a public agency didn’t seem to matter.
Let’s be honest about this:
Wanda David was not named to the water authority because of her ability or knowledge.
She was not named because she was the most qualified person to hold an important county leadership position.
She was not named out of a desire to render a public service to our community.
She was named out of pettiness.
She was named to get revenge.
She was named to create turmoil on the authority and to engineer the departure of Waddell.
With that action, Beshara, Britt and Beatty elevated the smarmy tangle of former lovers as the only criteria needed to hold a public office in Jackson County. And in so doing, they also lowered themselves into that same squalid puddle of muck and mud.
It’s a sorry, disgusting sight, one that makes a mockery of real public service.
And for the first time in my professional life, I’m ashamed to say that I live and work in a county with leaders such as these.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

The Commerce News
July 16, 2003

How Low Can The
Commissioners Go?
Any illusion that the Jackson County Board of Commissioners puts the public interest first was shattered last Friday when the commissioners appointed Wanda David to succeed Keith Ariail on the water and sewerage authority.
To be sure, not many people suffered from that illusion, what with the board's previous efforts to dismantle the authority and its efforts surrounding the courthouse. Friday's action is really just the latest demonstration that boys will be boys and these good old boys find playing political games more interesting than serving the voters who elected them.
The removal of Jerry Waddell as manager of the authority has been the commissioners' goal since they stepped into office. Unable to do it by bringing the authority under direct control of the commissioners, the BOC opted to use David – Waddell's ex-girlfriend. The hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned criteria for public service is a new low for a BOC that seems to have misunderstood and adopted a local automobile dealership's "How Low Can We Go?" slogan. With two appointments to the authority, the commissioners had plenty of opportunities to stack it with fair-minded individuals who would judge Waddell on his performance. The fact that the previous fair-minded authority members – Ariail, Tom Crow, Alex Bryan, Larry Joe Wood and current members Elton Collins, Warren Massey and Dean Stringer – have kept Waddell on the job suggests that his performance is acceptable, so these commissioners decided to appoint someone with a personal conflict with Waddell. What better foil than an ex-girlfriend?
The commissioners no doubt find it deliciously ironic that they can use Waddell's ex-girlfriend against him, but there is another irony at work too. Waddell did not seek a third term as commission chairman because decisions he made in that office rendered him ineffective and unelectable. These commissioners seem bent on repeating those mistakes and adding worse ones of their own. Instead of a legacy of good government, this board is determined to be remembered for its petty-minded efforts to get retribution on its enemies, both real and imagined.
The blame for this indecent attack rests with commissioners Tony Beatty, Emil Beshara and Stacey Britt, although Harold Fletcher who, as chairman, did not have a vote, seemed content with the appointment. His dislike of Waddell is well known. These men believe the end justifies the means and that settling old scores is more important than serving the public. They do not deserve to hold public office.

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