A newspaper ad purchased by board of commissioner Dwain Smith and BOC chairman Tom Crow alleging that someone in county government is “hiding money being spent” angered fellow commissioner Chas Hardy and led him to call for a meeting with all of the information being presented instead of “misinformation and half-truths.”
“We are elected to speak for the citizens of Jackson County,” Hardy said at the BOC meeting Monday night. “One thing they have told us is to be good stewards of their money and I feel like we have done that. This is an open forum. This is a public meeting. We are here to discuss the issues of Jackson County. For some reason, you feel like you need to discuss the issues of Jackson County in a way that is rather demeaning to the members of this board. I would like to ask that we consider placing on next month’s agenda, a full report and a full open discussion from day one of this whole issue. Let’s get it out in a public meeting where we are all here able to discuss it as men and not in the newspaper. Discuss it face to face. So that the people of Jackson County can get an unbiased, unaltered look at the actual facts that goes along with this case.”
Commissioner Bruce Yates agreed that a meeting should be held to discuss the issues.
The main issue is a lawsuit filed by three county residents, with the support of Crow, about the EMS station in West Jackson and the use of special purpose local option sales tax. In the ad in last week’s issue of The Jackson Herald, Crow and Smith asked, “Who is Hiding Money? And Why?”
The ad includes the following statement: “$453,881 is the amount being reported as spent on the West Jackson station. Over $1.3 million is the true amount spent found from the information the concerned employees and citizens (remember $400,000 budgeted for this station). This includes contracts signed. This is $846,119 more than reported. Why the difference? Someone does not want the public to know how much the commissioners are really spending?”
At the BOC meeting Monday night, Hardy took issue with that allegation.
“You put it out there ‘who is hiding money,’” he said. “There are only so many people who could be hiding money. Our county manager, our finance director, us commissioners. Are we hiding money? You put that out there. We need to discuss it and find out. You are making accusations that are misleading to the general public. You make a comment in your article (newspaper ad) that someone does not want folks to know how much the commissioners are really spending. My job as a commissioner is not to hide that. I’ve never hid one ounce of information from my constituents. I certainly don’t hide behind articles and lawsuits and any of that kind of stuff. We need to determine if your accusations, which in kind of borderline on slanderous, that someone is doing criminal activity. I think that was your whole intent on placing an article in the newspaper instead of sitting here with the rest of the members of your board and discussing the facts of the issue. We can agree to disagree but we need to discuss those issues. Not everyone is always going to agree. I get that but we need to discuss it as men and elected officials. People don’t think highly of politicians because of crap like this that gives politicians a bad name. They want to play games instead of face the issues. If we’ve done something wrong, I want to know about it. If we’ve been hoo-dooed, I want to know about it too.”
During the citizen comment portion of the meeting, county resident Larry Ewing questioned Crow about his role in the lawsuit. When asked if he initiated the lawsuit, Crow replied: “I gave information that they asked for.”
“In my professional opinion, if you wanted to stop spending, you could have discussed this in an open meeting with the county manager and other commissioners,” Ewing said. “I’m very concerned about you and Mr. Smith because of what has happened so far.”
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