McDONOUGH — The Henry County Board of Commissioners was unable to conduct a special called meeting on Wednesday due to a lack of a quorum.
Commissioners Dee Clemmons, Bruce Holmes and Vivian Thomas did not attend the virtual called meeting. Board Chair June Wood said she received an email from Clemmons stating she would be unable to attend because she was out of town.
In an email to the Herald, Holmes said half the board was not available and that he’d made the chair, commissioners and county management aware “a day or two before the meeting” that he would not be available.
“This was also the case during the last special called meeting. I’m not sure why the chair went on with both meetings knowing that there was not a quorum. I feel it’s inconsiderate and divisive. It seems as if this board has transitioned into doing weekly political stunts instead of doing the work of the citizens of Henry County. We are clearly in silly season,” Holmes said.
In an email sent on Friday, Thomas said "Madam Chair and all related parties were given notice that I was not available for the special called meeting."
The meeting’s purpose was to discuss and possibly vote on new positions for the county’s judicial system.
The called meeting was a result a lengthy and contentious discussion, bordering on an argument, among commissioners during the Sept. 1 meeting following a public safety update from District Attorney Darius Pattillo.
In the Sept. 1 meeting, Pattillo gave an overview of what the court system has been able to accomplish during the pandemic and judicial emergency. He said he was proud of what the court system had been able to do, noting they’d done an “exceptional job.”
However, the update became a pitch for three new positions, two attorneys and one investigator, for the District Attorney’s Office. Pattillo said he had previously requested the positions in February, but they were not included in the fiscal year 2021 budget.
Holmes made a motion on the spot to amend the agenda and approve the three positions for the DA using fund balance or any other funding mechanism. The fund balance is the county’s rainy day fund.
Holmes’ motion failed in a 3-3 tie.
Clemmons also made a motion to authorize the county manager to proceed with funding the three positions for the DA’s Office and any other positions for the courts. The motion also failed in a 3-3 tie.
Commissioners had several specific questions about the budget and funding, which the county management team was unprepared to answer on Sept. 1.
Commissioners Johnny Wilson and Gary Barham as well as Commission Chair June Wood said they wanted to wait on a vote to give County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews time look at the county’s financials and prepare a presentation for the board. The presentation would have included where the money would come from to fund the positions and any other unfunded items that have been approved by the BOC over the last few months that could impact the general fund.
“We are all in support for the court system,” Barham said. “I don’t think a week is too long to ask to present something on this. I’m going to support the county manager.”
Addressing the budget, Hobson-Matthews said that county staff did as they were directed to do by the board, which was to hold off on new positions until the county had a better idea of how the coronavirus pandemic would financially impact Henry County.
“Staff did not drop the ball on this,” she said, adding the board intended to revisit the budget in October and begin making any necessary amendments.
“We held every department at mid-year numbers, not just the DA,” Hobson-Matthews said.
On Wednesday, at the start of the live stream of the meeting, Wood expressed regret for not having a quorum.
“Based on the update (on Sept. 1) we did seem in agreement that this needed to be addressed immediately,” Wood said.
Barham said it was unfortunate that all the commissioners “chose not to be here today.”
He added that he was disappointed with the district attorney that an update to the board became a request for three new positions, stating some commissioners and the county manager were “caught off guard” at the request and ensuing discussion.
“I know (Hobson-Matthews) was blindsided as much as some of us were,” Barham said. “It appears that an elected official had went around Cheri Matthews to present their presentation to some of the commissioners. I didn’t think it was much too ask to give our county manager a week to come up with a plan and have time to revisit this issue.”
The BOC will hold its next regular meeting on Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. Meetings can be viewed on the county’s Facebook page or at www.co.henry.ga.us and selecting Watch Henry TV.
This story has been updated to include Commissioner Vivian Thomas' statement as to why she was not at the special called meeting.