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Pierce-Nash: The fight rolls on
Crowd angered over continued legal expenses for taxpayers
Some wood was tossed on the Patsy Pierce versus Wesley Nash fire Monday, while talk of more legal wrangling between county leaders drew the ire of a large crowd.
Pierce recently filed a contempt order against Nash, claiming the board chairman is failing to follow four directives issued by a judge last September.
But Nash says he is following those orders.
The chairman brought the matter up at Monday's meeting, saying that he had tried to meet with Pierce to work things out but that she refused to see him. Pierce said she had no knowledge of his attempts to meet with her.
Commissioner Nelson Nash suggested that the two meet alone in the chairman's office. Chairman Nash asked Pierce for such a meeting and she said she would "definitely consider it."
After the board meeting adjourned, much of the audience lingered in the meeting room, some, of course, wanting to see if anything would happen between the two. Pierce and Nash eventually met for a brief time in the hall outside of Nash's office - Pierce accompanied by her husband along with her attorney, Jeff Rothman.
Afterward, neither party seemed appeased.
"She wouldn't meet one-on-one with me," said Nash. "She wanted her lawyer and husband present."
Rothman said a private talk wouldn't solve matters.
"There's nothing to negotiate," said Rothman. "We're simply asking that he (Nash) follow the law."
Rothman offered an analogy for the situation, saying you don't negotiate with someone who's driven after drinking. You simply expect them to follow the law, to not drink and drive.
Pierce, along with former commissioners Ken Clark and Jack Fortson, won a suit over Nash last year. The three contended that Nash was abusing his power of office in a number of ways. Monroe judge Marvin Sorrells agreed with the commissioners, issuing seven directives to the chairman, basically pulling Nash back under the board's authority on several personnel, fiscal and security matters.
But Pierce contends that Nash has continued to hire county employees and set wages illegally. She said that since the ruling against him, Nash has accepted the board's personnel actions with less than three required "yes" votes. Pierce points to the 2-1 board votes to hire Donna Hilley and set the wages of Morris Fortson and Connie Riley as proof that Nash is breaking the law.
Likewise, she maintains that he has refused to comply with courthouse security measures adopted by the commission, while giving others the authority to violate security rules. She contends that the chairman broke a court order by failing to submit a security plan to the commissioners within 45 days of a judge's ruling. But Nash said he submitted that plan to sheriff Clayton Lowe.
Pierce also asserts that Nash has violated a judge's ruling by failing to turn over to the commissioners any materials he possesses in relation to his former position as county treasurer.
Nash, on the other hand, says he has been determined not to "be bitten by the same dog twice."
"I've gone out of my way to follow the judge's orders," said Nash. "...This is frivolous."
As the conflict continued, three men took the podium Monday to express their disgust with the legal costs levied on taxpayers by county officials. They called for a change in the county policy, which currently allows a commissioner to sue another commissioner at the county's expense.
"I don't believe the county taxpayers should pay legal fees when a commissioner sues another commissioner," said James Sims, who was met with applause from the crowd as he scolded the board. Sims also said the board should cut out the bickering or "someone needs to resign."
John Harrover, who was chairman of a recall effort against former commissioner Clark, voiced his dismay with the current board for chalking up $71,000 in legal expenses since taking office, saying it "really sticks in my craw" to see lawyers pad their wallets with taxpayer money.
New board member Bruce Scogin agreed that the county policy allowing one commissioner to sue another at the county's expense should be changed.
"We have no business paying out tax dollars on lawsuits," said Scogin, who said he believes the current policy is out of line with state law.
Audience member Tim McCannon said that the fighting "has to be stopped," saying the bad blood is "childish" and "frivolous."
"Madison County is almost the laughingstock of Georgia," he said.
After the meeting, Rothman said the crowd missed the point.
"It became a setup issue about money in there," said Rothman. "Nash had some of his friends in there talking about legal fees."
Rothman said he won't bill the county for his work for Pierce.
"I will not submit an invoice on this," he said. "This is not that complicated. He (Nash) has just got to follow the law."


Bolin resigns from BOE
Less than a year after being elected, Beth Bolin has resigned as District 4 representative on Madison County's Board of Education.
According to board member Robert Haggard, Bolin resigned July 6.
The board voted Tuesday to advertise for a temporary replacement for Bolin, whose term expires at the end of 2000. The spot will come up for election on the first Tuesday in November of 2000.
According to procedure, the board will interview all applicants for the position before appointing someone to fill the slot.
The group had deadlocked 2-2 on who to appoint to the post after Alicia Fitzpatrick's resignation in January of 1998. That position remained vacant until this past November when Bolin defeated Mike Sales in a special, non-partisan election.
In a separate matter Tuesday, the board voted to approve the awarding of a $25,000 Community Affairs Grant for the multipurpose P.E. complex construction.
Superintendent Dennis Moore also informed the board that a $110,955 School Improve-ment Grant has been awarded to Madison County Schools.
Moore said the grant will help with funding for computer labs for daytime and evening classes at the high school and for reading and math materials at the other schools.

Hull discusses new laws on open government
Hull's mayor and council were informed about new state laws regarding open government Monday.
City attorney Pat Graham brought copies of paperwork that must be completed whenever the council votes to go into a "closed session."
Meetings are allowed to be closed to discuss the hiring and firing of personnel, potential litigation and the purchase or sale of real estate.
According to the new law, an affidavit stating that all matters discussed during the closed session were legally allowable under the law must be signed by the mayor.
Any mayor or board chairman who falsely claims a meeting was legal is subject to felony charges and possible imprisonment.
Hutchins said he had "no problem" with the new law.
"We work for the citizens and they need to know what we do," Hutchins said.
In another matter, county attorney Pat Graham advised the council that he would look into the matter of a tax assessment notice the city has received on the city hall building. Graham told the council that city hall, like all government property, is tax exempt.

Cameras to go in three county schools
Security will be tighter at some Madison County Schools this year.
The Madison County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to accept bids by Pro Max Security to install security system cameras that will run continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at three of the county's six schools.
Schools to receive the cameras are Madison County High School, Madison County Middle School and Ila Elementary.
Ila, whose system will be installed at a cost of $3,854, was chosen to receive the added security because it has experienced the most problems with vandalism and break-ins, according to superintendent Dennis Moore.
"We won't hesitate to place them in the other elementary schools if the need should arise," Moore told the board.
The system at the high school will cost $14,516 and will include three exterior cameras, one for each of the parking lots, and 12 interior, which will be located in hallways, the lunchroom, gym and the doorways of restrooms - but not the interior of the restrooms, Moore pointed out.
All of these locations can be viewed on two monitors, which are to be installed in the front office.
The middle school's system will be installed at a cost of $11,811 and will also cover hallways, restroom and classroom entrances and the lunchroom.
All expenses are one-time costs, the school system will own the equipment, and there are no additional monitoring fees, Moore said.
"It's a shame that it's come to this," board member Elaine Belfield said.
Moore agreed, but added that the added security is the school system's way of responding to the concerns of the community.
"We feel like doing these three covers our needs at this time," Moore told the board.
In another matter, construction projects for the Madison County school system continue to move along pretty much on target, according to assistant school superintendent Jimmy Minish.
Minish reported that 90 percent of site work, including curbing, for the new Hull-Sanford Elementary School is complete; columns and beams are up with approximately one third of the decking installed; 90 percent of the rafters are up and block work is underway.
The school is slated to be completed by next spring and to open to students the following fall.
The new classroom wing at Madison County Middle School is expected to be completely finished by August 11, according to Minish.
"That's close, but I think they're in good shape," Minish said.
Although the project had previously been ahead of schedule, work, especially on the roof, has been held up recently because of the rain.
The entire inside of the middle school is also to be painted, but this will take a while to complete.

The Madison County Journal - Danielsville, Georgia
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