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July 8, 2010 Issue

A Star Spangled Good Time...
Wadley’s contract with lawyer violates law
Local school board members will see no contenders
Dollar General store opens in Gibson

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A Star Spangled Good Time...

Organizer Mitchell McGraw stands among the hundreds gathered to watch the fireworks at the Louisville Lion’s Club 20th Annual Fourth of July Celebration. More than 500 people came out to hear the patriotic music and see the fireworks display.

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Wadley’s contract with lawyer violates law

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter has obtained copies of documents, including a contract signed by three Wadley city council members with Betty Williams-Kirby, a Louisville attorney, through an open records request.

The contract, signed by council members Albert Samples, Izell Mack and Dorothy Strowbridge, agrees to pay Williams-Kirby not more than $20,000 to investigate the executive branch of Wadley’s city government.

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A retainer of $7,500 was agreed to be paid upon execution of the contract. The contract states it will be in effect for three months.

Although the contract is undated, it states services would begin May 1.

Another document obtained through the open records request is a memo from the three council members to the city clerk, Sallie Adams. It is dated May 14.

This document references a city council meeting in April where the three council members voted to set aside $20,000 for such an investigation.

One of the two remaining council members, John Maye, was absent from the meeting. The fifth council member, Edie Pundt, voted against the motion and said at the time, “We don’t have the money.”

Minutes of the council’s meetings from May and June have no further mention of the investigation, which means the contract was not signed during a public meeting, a violation of law.

David Hudson, an attorney with the Georgia Press Association who specializes in open records law, has stated the three council members who contracted with Williams-Kirby could face misdemeanor charges.

“For a city to be lawfully bound to a contract, there must be a public meeting and a vote, and the vote must be recorded on the minutes of the city,” Hudson stated in an email.

Wadley Mayor Herman Baker said Tuesday, July 6, that when they received the memo requesting the city clerk pay Williams-Kirby the $7,500 retainer, he made a copy and gave it to the city attorney, John Murphy.

“The attorney said, ‘Don’t write any checks.’ So we haven’t,” Baker said.

Baker said prior to receiving the memo, he was unaware of the contract with Williams-Kirby.

“I thought they knew, anytime there’s three of us, that’s a meeting and they need to make it be known. It’s just an error on their part,” he said of the contract.

The law requires that all meetings of a quorum be held according to specific conditions, including the meeting be open to the public and the public should be notified at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. In Wadley’s case, three council members is a quorum.

In an interview Tuesday, July 6, Mack said they were looking for something in the finance department.

“We were looking for a lot of stuff,” he said.

Mack said he had not spoken with anyone else about the contract or the investigation.

Although the contract specifies Williams-Kirby will investigate the executive branch of the city, her open records request to the city asks for information beyond that. She requested information about the police department, city court and the development authority.

When asked if he had been aware of this, Mack said, “We said the executive branch. Anybody from the mayor on down, so any chief executive.”

He said he had no comment about the city’s decision to not pay Williams-Kirby.

“He (the mayor) violated the city charter,” Mack said. “If he can do it, anybody can do it. We’re violating no city charter; we’re going by it. We’ve never violated the city charter.”

He said he is not concerned that Kirby won’t be paid.

“To be truthful, I’m not worried about it because that’s on the book,” he said.

He said the next step is to wait.

“We’re going to do like the detectives do, the smart detectives. We’re going to wait it out. We’re going to watch it and wait,” he said.

“It’s not a vision of good political leadership,” he said about Wadley’s city government.

“We’ve got a lot of young people. We need jobs. We need a good athletic director. For everybody. Everybody needs jobs.

“We’re not down here to play with ignorants. We have people we need to look after,” he said.

“The city needs to move on,” Mack said.

“We’ve got a lot of people that are naïve about stuff. They want to make it look like we’re bears. We’re not bears,” he said, adding he feels the same about anybody.

“Any color,” he said. “I’m a realist. Realist, meaning I call the shots like they are.”

Mack mentioned the city’s bypass, acknowledging the efforts state officials made on behalf of the city.

“Beautiful areas for industry. What we need to do is focus on jobs coming into this area,” he said. “We need help in this community.”

Pundt said Tuesday she had no comment. Murphy also said he had no comment.

Calls to Samples, Strowbridge, Williams-Kirby and Maye were either unanswered or unreturned as of press time Tuesday.

Hudson said besides possibly facing misdemeanor charges for violating the open meetings law, a civil suit could be brought to have the actions declared illegal and to bar any use of an attorney attempted to be hired under such circumstances.

The city’s next council meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 12, at 7 p.m. at city hall and is open to the public.



Local school board members will see no contenders

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

School systems in both Glascock and Jefferson counties held qualifying for non-partisan board seats last week for the November election.

Only incumbents qualified in both counties.

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In Glascock County, the two non-partisan Board of Education seats will be held again by Mary Ann Dixon for the Edgehill seat, and Don Hilson for the Mitchell seat.

Qualifying began on June 28 and ended July 2 at noon. The qualifying fee for the positions is $18.

The Glascock County Board of Education currently has five members on the board, with staggered elections every two years for the four-year terms.

In Jefferson County, qualifying was held during the same period for the first and third districts and the chairman.

Incumbent Georgia Hunter qualified for District 1, incumbent Steve Norton for District 3, and Jimmy Fleming for chairman.

The July primary will be held on Tuesday, July 20, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in both Jefferson and Glascock counties, with all precincts to be open for registered voters.

Early voting will end Friday, July 9, and advance voting will begin on Monday, July 12, and ends Friday, July 16.

Carol McLeod contributed to this article.



Dollar General store opens in Gibson

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Glascock County welcomed a new addition to downtown Gibson last week, the Dollar General store opened a new location on Wednesday, June 30 for customers throughout the county to visit.

The store is located at 115 Walker St. in Gibson, behind the Peeble’s House. Media Relations Manager Emily Weiss said the new store will employee between six and 10 people, depending on its the needs.

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Regional Manager Tindel Daniels said the grand opening will be held on Saturday, July 17.

The Glascock County Industrial Development Authority had originally contacted Dollar General and found that they were looking at possibly locating a store in Glascock County.

“We worked with Dollar General to determine their needs and requirements for a site location,” Development Authority Chairman Lori Boyen said at the time Dollar General purchased the property. “We encourage our residents to continue to support our local businesses. This is an additional opportunity to keep our money within the county and working towards our projects and our school.”

At the time Dollar General purchased the property, where the store sits now, Boyen said the Development Authority had been working on getting a “dollar” type store in the county for about four years.

“We have contacted Dollar General, Family Dollar and Four Quarters in the past, but each time we were told we did not have the population to support the store,” she said.

Boyen added that since the economic downturn, many stores like Dollar General have seen an increase in their sales because of American families trying to save money.

“Dollar General assesses many factors when choosing new store locations,” Dollar General’s Weiss explained. “Some of these factors include demographic trends, traffic patterns and customer needs, among others. Gibson was a great match for us. We believe we can deliver a convenient shopping choice to the community.”

Weiss said Dollar General sells quality brand-name and private label merchandise such as health and beauty aids, packaged food products, home cleaning supplies, housewares, stationery, seasonal goods and basic clothing.

“We also sell refrigerated foods like dairy products and lunch meat and frozen food,” she added.

The store is 9,014 total-square-feet. Hours of operation will be from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.




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