Friday, December 10, 2010

Fayette County Commission Changes Selection Process for Board of Elections

Last night I attended our local Fayette County Commission meeting. A number of things happened that have me scratching my head, but there's one that really tweaked my curiosity.

The Board voted to give themselves the final approval over who gets to serve on the Board of Elections.

In the past the Republican Party appointed one person, the Democrat Party appointed one and the County Commission appointed the third member. Done, finis, job complete.

Now however both the Democrat and Republican appointees will have to be approved by the County Commission.

I did a little research today, made a few phone calls, and as the county attorney Scott Bennett stated, the selection process is handled in a variety of different ways including the "new" way Fayette will be handling things. The only one I found that gives the County Commission final approval of who is appointed is Henry County. There may be others --- there are a LOT of counties in Georgia!

I can't imagine that the Democrat Party is going to be happy with this one. The County Commissioners are all Republicans. I'd have heartburn about it if I were a Democrat... and who's to say that at some point the tables won't be turned and Republicans will have to go before an all Democrat Board for approval of their appointee.

My research indicates the Board of Elections is supposed to be an independent board. This change seems to be trying to make them a little or possibly a lot less independent.

County Commissioner Eric Maxwell brought up some good reasons NOT to make the move. One being the one I raised in the paragraph before this one.

Another was the way it popped up kind of as a last minute issue. Per Maxwell the County Commissioners have had a policy for the past four years that they would discuss issues like this one in their monthly workshop and / or have at least three Commissioners look into the matter.

He said he first saw the measure two days before the meeting and that to the best of his recollection it had never been discussed at a workshop.

I asked outgoing Chairman Jack Smith what prompted the change after the meeting. He said that it was the only Board that had appointees who weren't approved by the Commission. He also indicated there had been some disputes over control of the budget and other items and this would give them more control. I asked the logical question "how would having final approval over appointees by local political parties change their control, affect budget disputes". I got a shrug type non-answer, a wellll... I really can't remember exactly what Smith said but it really wasn't an good explanation.

I guess at the end of the appointees four-year term if they haven't towed the Commission line they could block their re-appointment?

Now, behind the scenes I've been hearing there's a lot going on in this arena. I've heard that County Manager Jack Krakeel has been bumping heads with some of the appointees. I've heard that the Commissioners don't like that it's possible for the Republican Party to appoint a political opponent... and that they don't care for the fact that they could dump someone they've appointed only to have the Republican Party turn around and appoint them... I'm hearing all kinds of tings and have no idea where the truth lies.

I don't see any reason for the Board to sneak this one in as a last-minute last-vote of the year without some kind of something going on that I'd love to know!

This isn't one that is really going to affect me personally one way or the other. At least I don't think it will. I think it's just another power grab. I also think that we may see the Fayette Democrat and Republican parties working together to try and stop this one... we may also see Henry County Democrats joining forces with Fayette Democrats to try and stop it.

I'm including the video of the vote and discussion on the issue. Let me know what you think about it.

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