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BOC changes rules on board appointments

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Under an ordinance adopted by county commissioners on Tuesday, nominations to some of Clayton County's five-member boards could be made by any county commissioner, regardless of district.

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted 3-2, on Tuesday, in favor of the ordinance, which allows any district commissioner to bring forth a nominee for any position on any county board or authority, unless prohibited by state law, according to County Staff Attorney Michael Smith.

The measure strays from the Board of Commissioners' previous practice of allowing commissioners in each district -- including the chairman -- to nominate individuals to the county's five-member boards, and then have those individuals affirmed, or denied, by the full board.

Added to the new ordinance, just prior to its passage, were two amendments -- one requiring that members of any boards remain Clayton residents for the full duration of their appointment, unless the board is regional, and another allowing the Board of Commissioners to remove members of appointed boards for "excessive absences."

BOC Vice Chairman Wole Ralph, who called for the ordinance, said it was a way to "streamline" the process of board appointments by creating a uniform system of affirming them.

"There are several boards where commissioners appoint people who aren't from their district," he said. "Our five-member boards have historically been five-member appointments. However, the are so few of those in comparison to our other boards, it seems to me to be a better use to streamline this process."

BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell and Commissioner Michael Edmondson both opposed the measure, saying they worried the measure would disenfranchise voters by taking away the ability of district commissioners to make nominations from within their district.

"There are statutes that require district commissioners to represent their districts," Edmondson told the board. "This could disenfranchise or even make an environment for inequitable distribution of the members of our boards."

"We have exercised a process where commissioners did have a say and could discuss it, within their various districts, who they would appoint to an authority or board," Bell said. "This seems to me an attempt to eliminate that. I thought it rather hasty, in that we have not had the time to discuss this with the people who we respectfully ask to serve on our boards for free."

Prior to Tuesday, individual commissioners did not nominate members to boards with less than or more than five members, unless mandated by state law to do so, and appointments to those board were affirmed by the full board, according to Smith.

Under the new ordinance, any commissioner, regardless of district, will be able to nominate members to any board, Smith said.

According to Smith, the five-member boards which could potentially be impacted by the new ordinance include: the Building Board of Adjustments and Appeals, the Civil Service Board, the Elections and Registration Board, the Electrical Board, the Family and Children Services Board, the Housing Authority Board, the Human Relations Council, the Mechanical Board, the Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Addictive Disease Board, and the Plumbing Board.

Smith said some of the county's five-member boards would not be impacted by the new ordinance because the state mandates that some boards include district nominees. On Tuesday night, he did not know which five-member boards would fall under the new ordinance and which would not.

In other action, the board approved, on Tuesday, the adjustment of a contract between the Georgia Department of Corrections and the Clayton County Prison, allowing the county prison to take on 16 additional state inmates for the purpose of utilizing them for labor around the county.

According to Clayton County Prison Warden Frank Smith, the resolution bumps up the county's threshold for state prisoners from 226 to 242. He said Tuesday the 16 additional inmates will generate $317,485 annually in labor services for the county.

The county also approved allowing the Human Resources Department to hire a new, full-time risk manager to oversee the county's insurance risks and liabilities. Since July of 2008, the county has been contracting the services of retired, former Risk Manager Katerine Dodson to perform duties twice a week for an annual salary of $45,000, according to Human Resources Director Renee Bright.

The starting pay for the new full-time position of risk manager will be $64,524, according to Bright.