There was a property rezoning, a millage rate adoption, and a West Fayetteville Bypass update on Thursday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting, but it was infighting between commissioners and staff that stole the show.
Old wounds over delegations to staff were opened up with a proposal to allow individual department heads the authority to let some workers leave starting at 1 p.m. on Friday, September 4 for the Labor Day weekend. The motion would fail 2-2 with Chairman Charles Oddo and David Barlow in favor and Steve Brown and Randy Ognio against.
“I’m a rules and regulations guy. You’ve got to have some sort of structure, and I just haven’t seen it in the process,” Brown said of the manner in which who would leave early would be determined.
“I have voted on several million dollars worth of lawsuits because we didn’t do some things right, generally because there was no procedure in place. We need to take subjectivity out of it.”
Rapson noted there had been no employee lawsuits in similar situations.
“Keep in mind why we’re doing this, the reason is to reward the employees who are superstar employees,” said Rapson. “We’re trying to give the benefit to the lower-paid employees. I don’t think we have that type of issue with people filing lawsuits. It’s just a simple, nice benefit to give.”
Brown held firm.
“I don’t go to jail for anybody. I don’t break a rule,” he said. “I’m waiting for the non-superstar employees to sue the heck out of us because they didn’t get the time. That’s what happens. It will end up being abused because there is no structure.”
Commissioner Barlow was quick to defend Rapson and staff.
“The citizens, rarely if ever, get a chance to see things that we commissioners have an opportunity to see. The one thing that I can tell you is that, everywhere I go, I find some of the most diligent, straightforward, hardworking people that there are,” said Barlow, adding everything done under the direction of Rapson has been ‘spot on,’ including hard savings of more than $16 million for the county. “We’ve got a tremendous track record running, and that’s because of our people. To me, this is the decent thing to do, it’s the right thing to do, and I support this provision.”
The motion failed with the 2-2 vote, meaning county workers will be putting in a full day heading into Labor Day.
The issue would pop back up during public comments.
“I gotta say that the vast majority of this meeting has been very uplifting and positive, and I thought that I was actually going to be able to get out of here tonight feeling like that about the whole meeting, but you all just won’t let me do it,” joked resident Terry Williamson, crediting the commissioners for being fiscally responsible, but adding, “every positive thing that we did was because of a whole lot of hardworking people behind it that made it happen.”
Williamson expressed his displeasure that they would now not be doing the holiday benefit for “the little man on the totem pole.”
“There is nothing wrong with giving latitude to your managers and your supervisors, which is why you pay them highly,” he said. “They know what it is they’re doing, and they’re going to reward people that are doing good work.”
Warren Oddo, brother of Chairman Charles and Fayetteville City Councilman Paul, took his turn to defend the family name. Oddo detailed an online post that he felt portrayed Charles as being in favor of deficit spending and tax increases. At the crux of his issue was that Brown had said the post was “correct.”
“Above all, I want the commission to know I’m proud of you guys,” said Warren Oddo. “I want you to continue in the right direction, but I think if someone is out there putting out the incorrect perception of another one, we’ve got a problem, especially if that last name is Oddo.”
During commissioners’ reports, Barlow revisited comments from the previous meeting where he said a psychiatrist he spoke with made some comments about Brown, including that the doctor declared Brown to be a “narcissist.” Barlow noted that they were not made at a McIntosh Trail event.
“We didn’t want the folks at McIntosh Trail to be suffering because I made an inappropriate remark,” said Barlow, adding the reason behind his clarification, “Commissioner Brown wrote a letter to them complaining about that, which indicates to me that he is a narcissist because that’s what a narcissistic person would do.”
Barlow continued, saying he has been the victim of continued attacks from Brown towards himself and Rapson, and it is time for that to end.
“He lies about me and no one questions him, but I’m going to start calling him on the carpet myself because I’m tired of the innuendo,” said Barlow. “He slandered Steve Rapson at the last meeting, and I’m going to stand up for Mr. Rapson. He’s never done anything wrong.”
In positive news for taxpayers, the county formally adopted a rollback on the Property Tax Millage Rates for 2015. The General Fund and Maintenance Operations millage rate, which was 5.602, will now be 5.171. The rates for fire services, EMS, and E911 will remain the same. Reassessments of existing property contributed to an increase of $363,531,920 to the tax digest, allowing for the rollback. The total 2015 tax digest comes out to $4,760,174,199.
“I think it’s important to note that we are the only governmental entity in Fayette County that is not doing a tax increase this year. When you look at Peachtree City, Tyrone, Fayetteville, and the school board, on average, their increase is around nine-percent,” said Rapson. “The budget is completely balanced with no tax increase. When people start getting their tax bills, they’re going to start complaining, and they can’t complain to us.”
Praise was given for a job well done.
“We’re rolling back the millage rate because Mr. Rapson and staff have done what we asked them to do,” said Oddo. “It takes a lot of skill (from staff) in managing this budget to allow us to be here.”