After a 4-3 vote, Liberty County commissioners went to a second recommendation for a seat on the Liberty County Development Authority during Tuesday’s meeting.
The LCDA position, opened when Gralan Quarterman recently resigned, drew eight applicants. Contractor/developer Paul Krebs was the first recommendation from a selection committee made up of commissioners Donald Lovette, Marion Stevens and Connie Thrift.
Commissioners Lovette, Pat Bowen and Eddie Walden opposed the recommendation. Chairman John McIver added his opposing vote.
Georgia Power regional manager Robert Stokes, the second recommendation, then received a unanimous yes vote.
Charlie Holmes called out from the audience for a “parliamentary inquiry,” after the first recommendation failed, but the request was denied by McIver.
Holmes later said he wanted to see if Walden should vote, considering Stokes and Walden both work for Georgia Power.
Holmes thought Walden should have abstained.
“That’s principle to me,” Holmes said. “He works for him, how can he vote against him?”
A call to get a comment from Walden was not returned.
Commissioners are not legally bound to abstain from votes, according to the Georgia Ethics Commission.
“Currently there’s nothing under the ethics act as far as recusals and conflicts of interest,” said Rick Thompson, executive secretary of the state commission. “The State Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over recusals or conflicts of interest.”
Jim Grubiak, general counsel for Association County Commissioners of Georgia, agreed it is neither directly addressed nor implied. He explained commissioners decide which is best in varying circumstances.
“If you’re likely to benefit from it [the appointment], most people recognize that and you abstain,” Grubiak said. “A lot of it is a matter of interpretation.”
Counties have the option to establish their own standards, if they feel it necessary.
“We kind of have a range, from nothing to a full blown ethic commission,” Grubriak said, adding, “I think a growing number of counties have an ordinance of what’s accepted and what’s prohibited. If something like that is in writing people observe it because it’s spelled out.”
The state Senate has proposed SB 96 this legislative session to improve ethics in government.
The bill includes establishing ethics panels for counties and municipalities and quarterly meetings where complaints are addressed.
Sen. Eric Johnson, D-Savannah, who represents most of Liberty County, is one of the bill’s sponsors.
Grubriak said the state commission is making a model ethics commission available to counties and hopes to have it finished by spring.
Not many of Georgia’s 159 counties have ethics commissions.
“There are very few independent commissions,” Grubiak said. “I think if there was an outcry you’d see more of them —— apparently there’s not.”
Holmes says he sees a need for regulation.
“I’d like to see the beginning of honest and fair government before I die,” he said.