The Board of Commissioners Hears Response from Dr. Shirley Latimore

Published 8:12 pm Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Sumter County Board of Commissioners met on December 19th. The Board heard about two budgeting discrepancies during the first half of the meeting. Public Defender David Winheim addressed the Board concerning the first budgeting discrepancy, mentioning that it had appeared that numbers from the previous year had been charged instead of the projected 2024 year budget.
“The difference created by the old numbers would have been 11,689 and some change. That wouldn’t even be funding our office at the level that it is currently funded at. As I said, we are requesting 166,343, the difference 11,689.”
Winheim did mentioned the Board would be receiving a refund due to past staffing issues.
“I would let the commissioners know that we are going to get a refund again this year. It’s actually a very substantial refund. Sumter County’s portion of that is going to be near $100,000.”
Waddell entertained a motion to make up the difference.
“Entertain a motion to fund the circuit public defenders’ budget 11,689.68 for the shortfall not budgeted in what’s in the contract. Those funds would come from fund 355, and also just state as a sidebar, we will receive over a $100,000 in refunds coming back in January that would offset that.”
Commissioner Jessie Smith made a motion which was seconded by Commissioner David Baldwin, passing unanimously.
Dr. Shirley Latimore updated the Board.
“We come before you, more for clarification than anything.”
Latimore updated the Board on protocol.
“We are in compliance. We have protocol, and we have procedures.”
Latimore addressed an elections invoice.
“We noticed that, from the 2021 election, municipal election, the City of Americus had not been invoiced or paid. So that was a large amount which we are talking about, $22,745.51. That’s a matter of public record. The City was invoiced on July 19th.”
Latimore noted a discrepancy.
“They paid what was invoiced to them $16,519.40. That was on September the 8th. Large discrepancy there, with that $6,226.47.”

Latimore explained that the absence of an attorney was due to subsequent budgeting issues.
“Our position, it was to solve our budget problem, nothing else. We know that attorney Hooks is important for what we do. We wanted to be able to manage our board, that’s the bottom line.”
Chairman Mark Waddell questioned about whether the discrepancy with the invoice had been cleared up. Latimore replied.
“To my satisfaction, it has not.”
Hooks addressed the difficulty of recovering the discrepancy.
“Under the terms of the contract, we did not bill them when we were supposed to.”
Waddell commented on the importance of an attorney, citing commissioners meetings.
“That attorney is there to keep us doing what we are supposed to do and making sure that we’re discussing items that we are supposed to discuss.”
He addressed the contention surrounding the Board of Elections.
“I’m probably not saying anything that isn’t already public record, the majority of the lawsuits that have happened over the past several years have involved, I’m not saying it’s anything with the Board of Elections, but that’s where they have involved.”
Hooks addressed funding as the main issue.
“I think some of the budget concerns were a particular lawsuit that is now settled, and perhaps adequate funding given the scope of that lawsuit was not in the budget, and that’s part of where the shortfall started coming about. But I will say that Dr. Latimore and I have already started getting some of the, shall we say, interesting open records requests that I imagine we will be overwhelmed with in a presidential year and so while we are all thinking about this let’s make sure that we have adequate funding in next year’s budget so that I can support them within their budget knowing that they are going to get bombarded with crazy open records requests in the presidential year.”
Reid addressed a letter he had received from Latimore.
“You stated that chairman Waddell and attorney Hooks was biased. I’m very interested to know what they did that would cause you to make this accusation.”
Latimore replied.
“What that piece is referencing, where we were supposed to having a meeting with just the chairman and the attorney, and my response to that was in this discussion, I asked for another commissioner. I said non-biased person.”
Waddell replied.
“The big item was to discuss the attorney being present. There is nothing at any point in time that has any bias, it is just following the same guidelines that the Board of Commissioners follows.”
Reid asked another question.
“You referred to a rogue Board of Elections member. Who is that, and what did they do to for you to accuse them of being rogue?”
Latimore replied.
“I’m not going to call names.”
Latimore replied to Reid’s request for substantiation.
“I can substantiate it, but I’m not going to have it here and plastered in the news.”
Commissioner Jessie Smith expressed his appreciation for Latimore and the Board of Elections.
“Dr. Latimore, I want to say it to you and your group, ya’ll did a great job getting us through the last election that we had.”