Chairman Bell responds

"On April 7, 2009, Commissioners Ralph, Singleton, Edmondson and Hambrick unanimously voted that I present budget recommendations to the Board for the 2010 budget. They made this recommedation despite having created a Finance committee that did not include me and provided no reports. The Board, having passed a new ordinance in January, sought to diminished my legal authority as Chairman of the County Commission and wrest it in the hands of our Chief of Staff Alex Cohilas. They did this also after having terminated the contract of Ed Walls our Financial Advisor and KPMG, our financial auditors who had found substantial issues with the County's financial records and bookkeeping along with a freeze in grants by the State of Georgia. They did this after approving new positons and raises for certain staff in the midst of a recession when other counties have made choices to freeze new hires and raises. It was under these circumstances that they turned over the budget to me. It does not take a rocket scientist to recognize what is behind the sudden generosity to give power when you've done a yeoman's job to take it. Nevertheless, I did not shun nor run from this "Olive Branch". Instead I endeavored to do the job they tasked me to do in the resolution - to make recommendations. The Commissioners were well aware that I would have to make some tough RECOMMENDATIONS, recommendations that they did not have the political will or the courage to do.

It is much easier to hold the darts than it is to be the target. Rest assure however that I am still looking at all available options because I along with my colleagues have no desire to hurt staff in any way personally or financially, especially in a recession. I'm glad, ecstatic that they've made such a public stand. Yet unless they live in a vacuum, options that we are weighing now are no different than options that have been made by state government as many state agencies have laid off and are on furloughs, along with county and city governments.

Please know that furloughs are not the only options that I have placed before the Commissioners to consider, C-Tran is another one and there are others. There will be more in the coming days. Everything remains on the table and nothing is final at this juncture. I hope to hear from staff and citizens about what they hope will be the final outcome in this budget.

I am disappointed in their method of responding, it's divisive. No one came to me to discuss this release before it was made. The process is difficult enough without the political posturing. At the end of the day, after the final vote is taken, it will be all of our budget and I for one can accept whatever the majority decides. I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in the coming days to do what is in the best interest of our employees and citizens."

Eldrin Bell


Clayton County Board of Commissioners