Clayton BOC, Baskin set to mediate differences

Clayton County Tax Commissioner Terry Baskin, and members of the County Commission, are expected to sit down next week to try to mediate a legal dispute, representatives for both sides said on Friday.

A Superior Court judge, who strongly recommended mediation, has criticized the ongoing legal battle as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

County officials, and Baskin’s attorney confirmed that the closed-door mediation talks — ordered late last month by Judge Matthew Simmons — are scheduled to begin Tuesday morning.

Retired Fulton County Superior Court Judge Philip Etheridge was chosen by both sides to serve as the mediator in the talks, according to William Stone, the attorney representing Baskin in the matter.

“It is not a public meeting,” Stone said. “It is a confidential mediation ordered by the court ... I am not sure how long it will take to reach an agreement on the matter.”

Baskin and the county commission have been at odds since at least 2010, when the tax commissioner was arrested for refusing to turn over two of his office’s cars to the county, as ordered by the commissioners.

Charges related to the arrest against Baskin were later dropped by the Clayton County Solicitor General’s office.

The two sides are still arguing over who controls the vehicles, as well as pension plans for employees of the Tax Commissioner’s office, and software that Baskin argues is needed to produce regular reports he is required by law to deliver to the county commission.

Judge Simmons will have to step in and settle the dispute, if mediation fails to work. That could open the door to a prolonged –– and likely expensive –– fight in the courts, if either side did not like any decision issued by Simmons, and decided to fight it through the appeals process.

“We’re happy to talk with the Board of Commissioners, as long as they are willing to talk to us,” the tax commissioner’s attorney said. “We’re hoping to get this resolved.”

Interim County Attorney Jack Hancock could not be reached, Friday, for comment.