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City of Concord Meeting – December 16, 2014 - 7 p.m.
By Editor Becky Watts

CONCORD - This meeting was attended by Mayor Jim Roberts and Council Members Subrenna Weathers, Kim Griffin, Doug Neath, and Mayor Pro tem John Strickland along with Sharon Casey to take the minutes and the City Attorney Virginia Church.

The meeting was called to order and Mayor Pro tem John Strickland asked some questions and it was clarified that he is running the meeting even though Mayor Jim Roberts was sitting at the head of the table. Mayor Pro tem Strickland was chosen by his peers to run the meeting in the absence of Mayor Roberts after charges were filed against him that removed him from the City of Molena as the police chief and, until tonight, as the acting Mayor of the City of Concord. [Note from the Editor: Click here to read a series of articles on these charges.] Mayor Roberts agreed that Mayor Pro tem Strickland would be leading the meeting. There were 6 in the audience including me. Note from the Editor: I have now been to at least one of the meetings held in every municipality except for the City of Williamson. This meeting night was changed from last week to this week so I was able to attend this meeting.]

There was a motion to approve the agenda that was approved unanimously.

Mayor Pro tem gave an opportunity for Mayor Roberts to go on the record about his absence and he declined. Mayor Pro tem Strickland asked whether Mayor Roberts would be voting tonight, and Mayor Roberts advised that he is not voting tonight. City Attorney Church advised that the Mayor does not have voting authority even when he is running the meeting. However, she clarified that the Mayor Pro tem has voting authority even when acting as Mayor.

Mayor Strickland advised that he has been doing some research since the auditors were there and asked Mayor Roberts to respond to these issues. He advised that the city had a truck that had supposedly been surplused, but the city had the title for the truck and no truck. It is the 2006 Ford F250 and when Strickland spoke to Roberts about the truck, Roberts advised that he had it and was asked to return it. [Note from the Editor: Click here in the Update on the Roberts case from 11.25.14 and read the section entitled City of Concord Files Incident Report to read more of the details on this complaint that was filed with the Pike County Sheriff's Office on November 19, 2014.] Strickland asked Roberts, Can you explain to the council about that? Roberts said that the city surplused that truck. There were 3 estimates obtained on that truck and all were for $500 or less. He advised the council that if the estimates were $500 or less, it did not have to be auctioned according to the city attorney and that one of the two trucks that were surplused was purchased by another member of the city. He planned on doing the same thing. He didn’t recall when but also said that the parts from this truck could also be used for repairs and it just didn’t happen. It was brought up again as well as the fact that the truck needs a transmission and rear end, and discussion was that it was in the best interest of the city to make one truck out of two trucks. Strickland said that the July 23, 2013 meeting shows a quote from Auto Salvage for $500. Mayor Pro tem Strickland said that he made a motion to table that and there was a 2nd on that. And there is no mention about no discussion that he has been able to find about Roberts using his pay for the truck. Roberts said again that the discussion was made to surplus the truck. Strickland said that surplus doesn’t mean giving it away and it ended up in Alabama for a year and a half and only by Strickland's encouragement did it come back to the city. Roberts apologized and said that he didn’t make it a priority to pay for the difference for it and get the title for the vehicle. A section was read from the city charter that says that city equipment is not supposed to be moved. Councilman Doug Neath read the following sections aloud from the city's charter.

[Note from the Editor: The following is from Article II of the City of Concord's Charter that I obtained through Open Records.]
Section 2.15 - Conflict of Interest; Disclosure - Section (6)(b): Any elected official, appointed officer, or employee who shall have any private financial interest, directly or indirectly, in any contract or matter pending before or within any department of the city shall disclose such private interest to the city council. The mayor or any council member who has a private interest in any matter pending before the city council shall disclose such private interest and such disclosure shall be entered on the records of the city council and he shall disqualify himself from participating in any decision or vote relating thereto. Any elected official, appointed officer, or employee of any agency or political entity to which this charter applies who shall have any private financial interest, directly or indirectly, in any contract or matter pending before or within such entity shall disclose such private interest to the government body of such agency or entity.

(6)(c)No elected official, appointed officer, or employee of the city or any agency or entity to which this charter applies shall use property owned by such government for personal benefit, convenience, or profit except in accordance with policies promulgated by the city council or the government body of such agency or entity.

(6)(d)Any violation of this section which occurs with the knowledge, express or implied, of another party to a contract or sale shall render said contract or sale voidable as to that party, at the option of the city council.

(6)(g) Penalties for violation
(1) Any city officer or employee who knowingly conceals such financial interest or knowingly violates any of the requirements of this section shall be guilty of malfeasance in office or position and shall be deemed to have forfeited his office or position.

Mayor Pro tem Strickland said that there was also a problem with a $750 invoice for some marker lights that the City of Concord could not find in their inventory. The City of Molena returned 2 out of the 3 to them though the 3rd is still missing. The two boxes of road flare lights were found in the police chief’s office in Molena. Roberts said that these lights were purchased for the city of Concord’s use and apologized if they were down in Molena and said that he didn't know where they were.

There was also a question about why the City of Concord's blower was used in Molena and why 20 chairs and 4 tables that belong to Concord ended up down at Molena in the fire station for a benefit. There is some disagreement about these city items. Roberts had asked Stephanie to bring the blower down to Molena. Roberts stated that someone had asked permission and taken the tables and chairs to Concord and then he had taken them back down there a second time. Strickland said that someone from Molena said that the chairs had been down there the entire time. Strickland said that he didn't think that the mayor or city council members could take things out of the city out like this and said that they need to be more mindful about how they spend money in the City of Concord even though he doesn't mind helping people out, we're not that wealthy of a town that we can let stuff come and go. Strickland urged Roberts to speak on this because it shows a pattern that he is concerned about. Roberts said that he has helped both cities and that there was never an intention to hurt either city. Roberts said that ultimately he would like to see the entire county work to help each other like this but he was only able to make this happens where he worked.

There was no comment from other council members on these matters. Strickland apologized for bringing this up but said that these are things that he couldn't try to hide. Roberts said that at no time was it his intention to hide anything. Strickland replied that it did to him with a truck gone for a year and a half.

Strickland opened up the floor for public comment. I spoke and clarified that my thoughts are coming from watching county commission meetings for almost 15 years. "We are called, when in a position of authority, to act in such a manner that no one can ever accuse us of anything. And I don't like what I am hearing here tonight. I said that if this was my city, I would be raising cane, and I would likely be calling for you [Mayor Roberts] to be removed from office."

The Handbook for Georgia Mayors and Councilmembers discusses ethics, conflict of interest and abuse of office in depth. It is put out by the Georgia Municipal Association and addresses the suspension and removal of elected officials from office on pages 11 and 12 of its Handbook of Ethics. There is a method to follow if an elected official is indicted by a grand jury, if an official is acquitted, and if an official is convicted of "any felony." It also describes the methods upon which a recall of an elected official can be based.

Section below from the GMA Handbook:

"Additionally, a public official may be subject to recall by the electors pursuant to the provisions of the Recall Act of 1989. The grounds for recall enumerated in the statute are as follows:
(A) That the official has, while holding public office, conducted himself or herself in a manner which relates to and adversely affects the administration of his or her office and adversely affects the rights and interests of the public; and
(B) That the official:
(i) Has committed an act or acts of malfeasance while in office;
(ii) Has violated his or her oath of office;
(iii) Has committed an act of misconduct in office;
(iv) Is guilty of a failure to perform duties prescribed by law; or
(v) Has willfully misused, converted, or misappropriated, without authority, public property or public funds entrusted to or associated with the elective office to which the official has been elected or appointed"

No one else spoke and the meeting continued according to its regular agenda.

Ways and Means.
Mayor Pro tem Strickland said that the city paid off a loan that is saving the city some interest because they paid it off early. Ad valorem taxes are coming in steadily. The city is well within budget. Money is still going into the capital improvement fund. At some point, the city will have to pay into other funds as well. The repairs and maintenance on the streets has been done of late but there is still some funding in that account. Everything is normal on the parts and supplies side and they are dealing with the line on Strickland Road. [Note from the Editor: They went through their expenses in the meeting and were very thorough on how the city’s money is spent. It looked really good to this citizen activist!] About $3000 came in over and above the expenses from the Concord Jubilee. It cost about $1000 to fund the Lighting of Concord. $109 came in from 1/2 of the sale of the tickets at the Lighting of Concord because there was a winner who won the other 1/2 of the tickets that were sold. Traditionally, the Concord Jubilee pays for the Lighting of Concord, and the Lighting of Concord was never planned to be self-sufficient.

Street Department
There were two bids to fix a section of road with concrete. They have had some complaints on it. Discussion about 2 inches versus 3 inches of asphalt but Mayor Pro tem Strickland said that the thickness of the asphalt isn’t the concern and the base under the asphalt was. Motion to go with Spalding Concrete to repair Strickland and Concord Road. 5-0.

Water Department
New service went in for a church today. There was a sewer problem yesterday where a tap failed but it has been fixed.

Discussion that the city is trying to figure out costs on a project on Hwy 18. It is not ready to do now, but they are looking at it. There are 92 existing sections of foot pipe here in the city can cover part of this project. Stephanie and Doug are going to do some more talking on this to figure out which side of the road to work on. There are trees on one side of the road that may have to be moved which are part of this discussion. Jimmy Gilbert has asked to be a back up on this project. He is licensed. Mayor Pro tem Strickland said that he would like to see everything laid out on this project so everyone is on the same page.

6. Old/Unfinished Business

A. Approval of the November 13, 2014 minutes. Motion to accept as written. Approved unanimously.

B. Lighting of Concord already discussed.

C. City Vehicles. The dump truck was the first topic of discussion. Stephanie got it cranked and the brakes are working. This was supposed to be surplused but nothing has been done with it. Can this truck be repaired? Marty Perkins looked at it and said that it needs a new carburetor, a throw out bearing and a clutch which would come to about $2,000 to get it drivable for the road. Not sure that the truck is worth that. Kim asked if we should we get another opinion? This truck is a 1975 model and has some other problems. There was a question about the value of the truck. Strickland asked that they keep looking. A new dump trailer could cost $5,000 to $6,000 and it might not be what they need here. Discussion of trailer versus a dump truck. Strickland will bring more info to the next meeting on this truck that he is looking. We could make it work, but… Discussion of selling it now that it is running versus trying to make it work. It was surplussed a long time ago and it has just been sitting there. Roberts said that they had talked about trading it in but nothing else has been done. The city may put it on govdeals.com. Virginia said that if it has been surplused, then no money should be put into it. It could be un-surplused, but it is still surplus at this time.

2006 Ford F250. It was surplused at one point, but it was tabled after surplus. It was accessed by two people who both said that it needs a transmission. It has not cost anything to access it. There are no problems with the engine. It was purchased for $5,000 in 2011. The value is $5000 or $6000 and a new transmission will likely cost $3500 or so. 2007 Ford Truck bought for $11,000 in 2011, and the city has put $9400 worth of repairs on it. It is running fine now, but Strickland thinks that the 2006 truck is in better shape than this one. It is worth about $10,000 now. Concerns about which truck is better and the amount of repairs put into this truck. Discussion about what to do with the trucks. Kim asked about getting someone else to look at the 2006 truck. It was stated that the estimate in Hollonville was the exact same thing with the suggestion to go with the same transmission. Motion to unsurplus the 2006 truck. Doug asked if we had the money to pay for this repair and then gave the 2nd to unsurplus the truck and was advised that the funds will come from the Capital Improvement fund. Motion was approved. Motion to let Zebulon Auto make the transmission repair. Motion was approved.

The case backhoe was surplused. It does run, but has hydraulic leaks. The tie rod has been replaced so it could be moved around. Discussion that this and other surplused items may end up advertised in the community or on Craigs List or govdeals.com.

D. $400 plus dollars to replace street signs. Back in the 1970’s, the Boy Scout troop put signs up. There are a number that need replaced now. They are looking at a local company that will deliver these signs and is within the $500 budgeted for this. Motion to approve. Approved.

E. This was done already in the meeting.

Strickland added a couple of items under Old Business.

Discussion about using decals on city vehicles to identify them. It would be semi-permanent. They are $15 each. Motion to buy 10 of these signs. Discussion about colors. Green park and black letters. Approved.

Discussion about lights on trucks. Strickland has someone quote him $550 per truck. Doug asked about exact specs. Strickland said that he could get more information on this. There were magnetic lights at some point, but one of them is going to have to be located. Motion to get the new truck lit up. 2nd. Approved.

The roof on City Hall and the Strickland Building. Strickland contacted 3 different contractors and 1 showed up. This contractor suggested a rubber membrane type and he could do it for $40,000. This is less than what they expected. There are some sags that need to be addressed too. The contractor said that he can bandaid it so it won’t be leaking now for $1,000. They are commercial roofers out of Jackson, Georgia. Strickland said that he can wait to get others to look at it again, but said that it sounds like a really good deal right now because the rain does affect the events that are there so this is a problem that needs to be addressed. This money would have to come out of the Strickland fund. Strickland says that he wants to be sure that they are doing the right thing on this and asked for a way to address this.

Motion for Strickland to go ahead and patch the Strickland Building. Approved.

The water tower. A salesman wants to come back to the meeting again. Strickland said that painting and cleaning needs to be done in the spring rather than now. He is going to look for other figures to go with this.

Discussion about the gate in the fence at the water treatment plant. Apparently someone drove through the gate and was driving around the water treatment plant. Strickland suggested that this gate going to the entrance. Blount Sheet Metal can build a 6 inch metal post with a 16 foot gate that attaches to another 6 inch post. $575 is the cost. This would replace the gate that someone drove through. The other gate could probably remain a farm gate for now. Strickland said that he can look around for other quotes if they need but that he knows that quality of the work that they do. Motion to go with this gate combo. Approved.

7. New Business.

Employee Bonus. This is done every year. This needs to called be a gratuity and not a Christmas bonus according to the city attorney. This came out of Jubilee funds last year. The auditor ok’ed this last year at $150 per employee. This will be called a stipend. Discussion on how much and who to pay this stipend. Motion to pay 3 full-time employees at $200 and 1 part-time at $100 from the Jubilee funds. Approved.

Comments from other council members? None.

Motion to adjourn. 8:25 p.m.