At the beginning of this month, Fulton County Commissioners reappointed a member of the Board of Assessors to another four-year term. The vote was controversial because the North Fulton representatives had been trying to appoint a new candidate to the position.
The reappointment was added to the agenda last minute, so it wasn’t even on the commissioners’ own agenda printed that morning, according to Commissioner Lee Morris. It certainly didn’t appear on the agenda that was released to the public on Friday.
In January, commissioners passed the county budget. As the motion to approve was made, commissioners Natalie Hall, Marvin Arrington and Emma Darnell made amendments totaling $1.3 million.
During that meeting, the county’s financial officer patched together a plan to fund the amendments by cutting funding from election equipment reserves, and the budget passed without the public even having an opportunity to call their representatives.
Last August, the county passed the property tax rate based on a presentation from the Finance Department made at the meeting when the rate was set, after the state-mandated public hearings had been held.
Commissioner Bob Ellis called on the commissioners to revoke the vote, arguing that the tax was higher than what had been advertised before the meeting. The higher rate was not overturned.
Noticing a pattern yet?
After sitting through nearly a year of Fulton County Board of Commissioner’s meetings, I can say that it’s not uncommon for the meeting’s day-of agenda to barely resemble the document posted online the week before the meeting.
I can say the county has a habit of enacting multi-million-dollar decisions with little-to-no time for the public to review their plan.
The three examples I gave all passed in 4-3 votes, with the North Fulton commissioners opposed. But this shouldn’t be a matter of north county versus south county, it’s a matter of democratic principles.
If an elected official thinks the only way to get something passed is to sneak it in when the public isn’t looking, that’s a problem — even if what they’re passing would be good for the community.
Earlier this year, Ellis put forward an ordinance amendment that would have required any commissioner’s add-on with monetary requests be published on the Friday before the meeting. That item was tabled in April and hasn’t been considered in a public meeting since then.
I hope this amendment passes, but it would only be a small step to stop this kind of behavior, leaving several loopholes open for commissioners to exploit. What is needed is a change of mindset, a group of elected officials who take transparency and accountability seriously.