Mickey Mouse. That’s about the best one can say of how Barrow County makes its hiring decisions. As outlined in an article this week, Barrow County officials hired a new Animal Control director without doing any significant due diligence about the person’s past job history. The board of commissioners approved the hiring, no questions asked.
But it turned out that the person hired had a very troubled work record in at least four different jobs since 2005. After this newspaper began asking about his work history, he decided to not take the Barrow County job.
But why should vetting someone’s job history have to be done by a newspaper only after that person is hired? Isn’t that what a human resources department is supposed to do before making a recommendation to the BOC?
How many more hiring decisions has Barrow County made without doing background checks?
Barrow County’s government does not have a very good reputation around the state and this kind of thing is why. It’s amateurish at best, shoddy and irresponsible at worst. Hiring someone, especially a department head, without a full background check opens the county up to serious liability issues.
If Barrow County wants to improve the reputation of its government, then government officials should start acting like professionals.
Today, it’s just M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.
There is a huge misconception among some local government officials that what they discuss in executive session is secret and that if they talk about it, they’re violating the law.
Poppycock. Public officials are free to discuss in public whatever they want to discuss. If they want to blow the whistle on their peers, they can.
Because of all the confusion, Georgia Press Association Attorney David Hudson recently did an article outlining the fact that public officials are supposed to represent the public, not the internal interest of their peers.
Here’s Hudson’s article:
“From time to time, elected officials such as city council members, county commissioners, school board members, or appointed members of the boards of government authorities will receive advice from someone (usually a lawyer representing the public entity) that the public official may not disclose information learned in executive session. Such advice has no basis in fact or in law. Elected officials are subject only to the voters, and may not be disciplined or discharged from office by their fellow elected members. Members of the boards of authorities, while appointed by city or county governments, usually are entitled to serve the entire term without removal authority remaining vested with the city or the county who made the appointment. See, Hernandez v. Development Authority of the City of St. Marys, Georgia, 256 Ga. 356 (1986).
“Some may ask, what about the provisions in the Georgia Code that establish standards of ethics for government service or for members of boards, commissions and authorities. O.C.G.A. § 45-10-3 contains a Code of Ethics for members of boards, commissions and authorities. It has provisions against the use of undisclosed public information for private gain, and against engaging in unbecoming conduct that constitutes a breach of public trust. None of its various provisions, however, would prevent elected or appointed officials from disclosing what occurred in a closed session if the official felt that it was in the public interest to make the disclosure.
“O.C.G.A. § 45-10-1 is similar in many respects and applies to any person involved in government service. Some of its provisions are that the person in government service should put his/her loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party or government department, and an obligation to uphold the Constitution, laws and regulations of the State and the United States and of the governmental units therein. It also has prohibitions against using government information for private gain. None of its provisions would prohibit an elected or appointed member from disclosing what occurred in an executive session if the member felt it was in the public interest to do so.
“Finally, the overriding constitutional principle for public service in Georgia is contained in Article I, Section II, Paragraph I of the Georgia Constitution. It states: ‘Public officers are trustees and servants of the people and are at all times amenable to them.’ Thus, if the public officer learns of something that occurs in an executive session that he or she believes should be known by the people to whom the public officer is a servant, there is no prohibition in Georgia law that would prevent such disclosure or subject the public officer to any measure of discipline. The officer may create ill will with other members of the public agency, but that is a factor that the public officer will have to weigh against what he or she feels is an overriding duty to the public that he or she serves.”
Mike Buffington is co-publisher of the Barrow Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.