|OPINION PAGE - JULY 14, 1999 - DANIELSVILLE, GEORGIA|
Responds to Dove, Bullock letters on county
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
July 14, 1999
Pierce should drop action against Nash
One person asked me after Monday's commissioners' meeting what I will write about when the squabbles between county leaders subside.
"I don't know," I said without really thinking about it.
But then I considered the prospect. It's true: if anybody gains from all the ill will in the county, it's us - the newspapers. The conflicts lead to big headlines, stories, letters, ads. We sink a hefty load of money on newsprint and paper to run the latest bad blood escapades, but there's certainly a payoff.
And when I'm facing a slow news week, it seems something always pops up, somebody's taking so and so to court, somebody's accusing their political enemy of this or that.
Perhaps a big "thank you" is in order to those with a chip on their shoulder. They've really made my job easier.
But I'll be happy to see these fights laid to rest. The conflicts between those running the county are out of hand.
Commissioner Patsy Pierce's latest action against board chairman Wesley Nash is just another example of the politics of pettiness so pervasive in this county over the past couple of years.
Nash has acted unlawfully before, ignoring the authority of the board. That's been proven in court and upheld on appeal. Now Pierce says Nash is at it again, violating the law by not carrying out a judge's orders.
So is Nash a renegade chairman? Or are these allegations simply a smokescreen put up by Pierce to cover her own problems?
Let's look at probably the most serious accusation in Pierce's contempt order against Nash, that of illegal hiring and salary setting. It's with these allegations that we can get the clearest picture of what's going on.
Pierce says that since the ruling against him, Nash has accepted the board's personnel actions with less than three required "yes" votes. She 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.
Consider that the actions on Hilley and Riley have since been reaffirmed by the board with three "yes" votes. Also, Pierce can't claim the board was left out of the loop on these matters. Unlike proven previous illegal hirings, these personnel decisions were in the board's hands, not the chairman's.
But here's the real rub, the heart of the matter:
Pierce, Ken Clark and Jack Fortson cut Morris Fortson's pay by $13,000 early this year. Then Clark resigned. So that faction no longer had the numbers to make the pay cut stick. Nelson Nash and Bill Taylor were opposed to the salary reduction, creating a 2-2 split at the commissioners' table over the clerk's pay. All ties are broken by the chairman. It's pretty obvious that the chairman won't support the pay cut for his assistant. The salary should be reinstated by a 3-2 vote, right? No, Pierce missed the meeting in which Fortson's salary was readjusted, then claimed that the board had acted illegally by going ahead with a vote. When the clerk's pay was brought up later with all four district commissioners present, Pierce and Fortson refused to vote. If they don't vote, there's no tie, no vote from the chairman, no way the clerk gets his original salary.
Perhaps commissioners should simply miss meetings or refuse to vote when they disapprove of some measure they can't stop. They can do this and then claim the others who voted broke the law.
It's appalling that Pierce is trying to paint Nash as a lawbreaker on the three-vote issue, when it's her that's guilty of a backhanded tactic.
One commissioner talked Monday of letting go of old animosities, of "burying the hatchet."
It appears the only hatchet burying in this county is deep in your opponent's back.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
The Madison County Journal
July 14, 1999
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