Commissioner’s Work Session Hears Claims of Employee Conference Misconduct and Space Heater Waste

Published 8:49 pm Thursday, September 14, 2023

Chairman Mark Waddell discussed the need to appoint new clerks due to an absence.
“Miss Heather Tyler and Mr. Nigel Poole are who we would like to appoint as deputy clerks until December 21rst of 2023.”
Commissioner Smith made a motion to approve the appointment which was seconded by Commissioner Jones.
Mr. Lewis Webb, representative for OneSumter, presented a wayfinding project to standardize signage throughout the county. Welcome signs for each city were a highlight of the project.
Commissioner Waddell announced that the Georgia Department of Community Affairs had granted a Georgia Broadband Ready Community Certificate.
“There are lots of things going into place to make that happen throughout the county. It’s a big project, it’s continuous.”
Afterwards, Judge W. James Sizemore asked the county to continue as the fiscal agent for drug court.
“We try to divert people whose criminal conduct is the result of addiction or mental health issues and that court has a team where they are provided treatment and a lot of attention.”
“The idea is to get those folks sober, off of drugs, working, drivers license. When they graduate, if they graduate, they are functioning citizens.”
“I would say fifty percent or more make it through the program.”
“The recidivism rate reduces even if they don’t make it through the program.”
Commissioner Smith made a motion that the county continue to be the fiscal agent for drug court, which was seconded by commissioner Jones, passing unanimously.
There was a discussion for a grant for a warning light system where highway 280 intersected with McMath Road, warning motorists when firetrucks were approaching. Quotes were still forthcoming.
Mr. Reid addressed continued concerns about employee conference spending.
“We have one who has attended seven conferences in the last twelve months.”
“We need to set a limit on what we will pay and who can attend. If a person wants to pay over five hundred dollars a night for a room, that’s their personal business. When you are spending taxpayer dollars, you have to be careful.”
Jessie Smith responded to examples listed by Mr. Reid.
“We can’t just pick out three people.”
“We need to look at everybody.”
Mr. Reid responded.
“That was the example that brought it to light.”
Mr. Waddell mentioned past conference policy.
“You had so much amount of money you were allowed to pay per day, when you got back, you turn in your receipts, then you got your money. When Miss Jarvis was here, it was changed, and you got that money in advance.”
Mr. Smith expressed dissatisfaction with venue meals.
“While we are working at it we can also look at, when we dine there, some of the stuff they offer in those classes, that [isn’t] really sufficient.”
He suggested putting a cap on spending but allowing people to buy their own meals.
Mr. Waddell countered.
“Why should the county pay for the training and the cost that goes into it and a meal that was already part of it?”
Mr. Baldwin commented.
“It’s mind blowing what the conference itself costs.”
Mr. Waddell described how department heads can give raises for “additional responsibilities” without exact clarification as to what those duties are without coming to the Board.
“Any job you are doing now, you are going to do something outside the realm of what your specific parameters are.”
Mr. Reid also commented.
“It would need to be something significant that would require more time our planning.”
Mr. Smith made a motion to place a moratorium on raises for additional responsibilities. Mr. Reid seconded the motion. The decision was unanimous.
The Board also discussed a short-term moratorium to hear applications for rezoning while adapting to changes in the law, with an exception for rezoning requests necessitated by rebuilding homes after a fire.
There was a discussion of the Georgia Power Bill. Mr. Reid shared computations showing that the fluctuations in billing were due to consumption. Mr. Reid, along with Daryl Dowdell, building and grounds maintenance manager, discussed findings by Don Porter, Georgia Power customer service representative, that several space heaters were in use, forcing the air conditioners to kick in, burning excess power, and creating a fire hazard.
Mr. Smith made a motion to eliminate space heaters in county-owned buildings, which was seconded by Mr. Reid, passing unanimously.
A motion was made by Mr. Smith to reappoint Magistrate Crystal Cleveland to a four-year term at the Development Authority, ending November 14th, 2027, which was seconded by Mr. Jones, passing unanimously.

Correction: The original article stated that Daryl Dowdell was the one who discovered the space heaters. While Daryl Dowdell was called before the board to discuss findings, customer service representative Don Porter was the one who made the walk-through that discovered the space heaters.