The Liberty County NAACP Branch issued a resolution Monday night urging county commissioners to create an ethics committee, provide opportunities for public input at commission meetings and implement a policy for board appointments.
But commissioners who attended Monday night’s “community mass meeting” at Dorchester Academy in Midway, said they’ve acted ethically and openly, and Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said the county’s method of appointing members to various boards is more open than that of other local governments.
Lovette, one of the three commissioners to attend the meeting, said the board would consider the NAACP’s resolution, but insisted the county has been above board. He added at one point “for the thirteenth time, we’ve done nothing wrong.”
The NAACP has become critical of the Liberty County Commission’s board appointments and the refusal of commissioners to allow the civil rights organization to be on the agenda, according to Liberty NAACP Branch President Graylan Quarterman.
“If we can’t go to them, we invited them to come to us,” he said Monday night.
The meeting lasted about 90 minutes and drew a sizeable crowd — including a number of former and current elected officials and Georgia NAACP President James Major Woodall.
In addition to Lovette, commissioners Marion Stevens, D-1, and Justin Frasier, D-2, attended, but there were a number of claims not all the commissioners got an invitation. Frasier said he didn’t get invited until the flyer was texted to him.
Quarterman said the NAACP extended invitations to each of the commissioners through the county administrator, Joey Brown, and by personal email.
That aside, the NAACP also listed in an agenda for the meeting the upcoming TSPLOST vote as an issue to be discussed Monday night, but it was largely brushed aside — apart from a plug in favor of the tax from Lovette — as members in the audience repeatedly questioned the lack of an ethics committee.
Commissioners were also asked why the NAACP and Quarterman had not been allowed on the agenda, which after some discussion led Lovette to say the issues the group wanted to speak on were resolved and there was no reason to put the organization on the agenda. While the tone of the meeting was cordial, there were a few moments of rancor.
At one point, Stevens questioned if “certain people had been reappointed to boards this would have escalated to the point it has,” an apparent reference to commissioners’ recent split votes on Quarterman’s reappointment to the Liberty County Development Authority, which apparently ended his time on the LCDA. Residents at the meeting, however, seemed most troubled by the county’s lack of an ethics committee. At one point, former Commission Chairman John McIver stood up to recount how ethics commissions were formed and their purpose.
Lovette said the Liberty County Commission’s ethics committee was disbanded some years ago after it was considered no longer necessary because commissioners were acting ethically. He said the county administrator is the current contact person for complaints about commissioners ethics, or commissioners themselves.
As the meeting closed, meeting, state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, an NAACP member since 1960, said disagreements were part of public service, “but surely it’s not a hard thing to form an ethics committee.”
Commissioners also faced questions on why a citizens advisory committee had been disbanded. Lovette said the committee became “too personal,” and ineffective.