Lowndes County Board of Supervisors

Articles written exclusively by one member of our staff are notated accordingly. Articles in which more than one person contributed are marked as The Real Story Staff Report, while ones taken from press releases provided to us are referred to as Special to the Real Story.
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The True Story of Harry and Leroy — The June 4, 2012, Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Meeting

In what appeared to be the blink of an eye, the June 4, 2012, Lowndes County Board of Supervisors meeting went from civil to sizzle in about 10 seconds.  After about an hour of peaceful exchanges, the inevitability that many people have been predicting for months, came to pass.  Harry Sanders and Leroy Brooks became – well – Harry and Leroy, again.

Prodded on by articles that Ron Williams has written over the past few weeks in The Columbus Packet, Harry ended the meeting by addressing the situation of Leroy becoming rude with County Administrator Ralph Billingsley, in regard to ordering Leroy an i-Phone.

By the time the discussion was over, the meltdown was complete and the real losers, as always, were the citizens.  Though The Real Story is an advocate of open government, it is becoming crystal clear that watching our government in action is not always desirable and not always pleasant.

Harry had every right to bring up the phone situation in public.  A state auditor had already heard the disagreement, it had already been reported in the local media, and it was even alleged that Brooks had posted something on Facebook about it.  However, one can question whether it was the wisest decision.

Soon afterward, the die was cast, the conversation started, and the “he said/he said” turned into high drama, eventually collapsing into what everyone thought it was going to, anyway.  Yes – it turned into an issue of race.

Before it was over, Leroy had stated that he felt that Harry thinks that these are “plantation times and that he is the plantation owner.”  Brooks went on, “In the 50s, old black men had to listen to young white men, who did not respect them.”  Leroy’s words added to his anger and the fervor continued.

Leroy made it clear that he was not upset over the i-Phone, but by the way that he was treated by Billlingsley.  The meeting further degenerated, and finally became personal.  Leroy made remarks about how Harry bullies employees, and the accusations continued, including a veiled threat to Harry to leave him (Leroy) alone.

District 3 Supervisor Bill Brigham did restore some order, by asking that the race card not be played.  But, it was too late.  It already had and has been played, a million times.  And, it will be played, again.  At this time, Leroy, after making a few kind comments to Brigham, left.

The irony is that, by the time that they read this article, many people will already have made up their minds.  Some will feel that Harry was keeping Leroy in check and taking care of business.  Others will cheer Leroy and his bravery for taking on the “man”.

And, in the end, nothing was accomplished.  No ruling on the cell phone.  No discipline for any party involved.  Nope – nothing.

All that is left is a jack-in-the- box sitting on the Board of Supervisors’ head table, just waiting for someone – white or black – to crank it up.  And, for a lot of citizens in Lowndes County, they don’t care if the clown that pops out is white or black.  They just want to laugh.  It makes them feel better about themselves.  And, that is what is truly sad.   Nothing entertaining, here, kids; move along.  It’s really nothing to laugh about, at all.

Joseph St. John

 Originally Published in the June 6, 2012 Print Edition

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What to Do When All the Answers Are Right, Even the Wrong Ones –
The April 27th Lowndes County Supervisors’ Meeting

Near the end of what had been, for the most part, one of the most boring Supervisors’ meetings in the history of humanity, electricity filled the air as District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks re-opened the scab of the county’s take-home vehicle policy, or lack thereof.  And, what is most perplexing is that there is not a right answer -just the best answer or what is the best answer, today.  In the blink of an eye, it could all change, and the supervisors would have to revisit the problem, again.

Clearing the air, immediately, Brooks addressed the fact that many county employees believe the Road Department receives extra privileges.  He also addressed the fact that many people think he has an exaggerated concern about the well-being of Cindy Lawrence of Emergency Management.  Leroy stated, “I know people think I am partial to Cindy Lawrence, but I was disappointed that everyone (those who lost their take-home vehicles at the last meeting) had to read about it in the paper.”  The five who have been affected by the decision are:

  • E911 Director Sheri Fancher
  • Emergency Management Director Cindy Lawrence
  • Fire Coordinator Sammy Fondren
  • Juvenile Detention Center Administrator Anthony Nelson
  • Youth Court Bailiff Joe Richardson

Leroy continued to dispute the notion that IRS rules are causing this problem.  Board President and Supervisor Harry Sanders was quick to point out that IRS rules were not the problem; however, concerns about the tax implications did dominate the last meeting, on April 13.  And, who can blame anyone for getting fixated on the IRS?  In a world where most people live day-to-day, the idea of an IRS agent auditing the county and holding numerous employees accountable for a tax violation is no small matter.  Harry is right in his opinion that the county would have no responsibility; instead, the employee would bear the brunt of any violation.

During the time between the last meeting and the April 27, 2012 meeting, it was apparent that Brooks and County Administrator Ralph Billingsley had had a discussion, and that the two did not see eye-to-eye.

Leroy was quick to point out that he wanted to change his vote, from the last meeting, when he voted in favor of taking the vehicles from the five effected employees.

Brooks was adamant in his reasoning:

  • He felt that the IRS information that had been presented to the board was “not totally correct.”
  • He believed that the discussion was “cloaked under the (concerns of the) IRS.”
  • He is not convinced the road crew is exempt by the IRS.

Add the fact that the draft of the policy that was requested Mr. Billingsley was nowhere to be found, and the drama was quick to escalate.

District Two Supervisor Bill Brigham interjected that the problem was not only “gas, but the wear-and-tear of the vehicle.”  This point is valid; however, it flies in the face of what was discussed in the last meeting, where the IRS and the practicality of taking home vehicles were the dominant issues influencing the discussions.  And, on numerous occasions, board members pointed out that their concern was “not about the price of gas.”

Vice-President John Holliman clearly defined the real underlying questions that are on people’s minds: 1. Why should a person get a take home vehicle?; and 2.What justifies such a privilege?

In one of his most animated moments, Holliman firmly pointed out that Fire Coordinator Sammy Fondren does not even go to active fires, so why should he get a take-home vehicle.  That point is valid and typifies what is often the “unspoken” question:   do those who get the perks really earn them?  And, that, plain and simple, is the essence of the matter.  John doesn’t always say much, but, on Friday, he said what everyone else in the room was thinking.

The five who lost the off-duty use of county vehicles all have important jobs, make no mistake about that, but do they need to take home the county vehicle?  That is the million-dollar question and can only be answered by looking at each case individually.  And, if Holliman’s concern is correct and the fire coordinator never goes to fire scenes, there are bigger problems than just the take-home vehicle situation.

The cold, hard reality is that no one is wrong if everyone is right, even if no one can agree on what is right.  From the beginning, District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith has asked for a complete review of the situation.  On Friday, Leroy changed his view and agreed.  Harry, Bill and John disagreed and the vehicles will remain parked.  Harry, Bill and John are not wrong; neither are Leroy and Jeff.

Until Billingsley and the Board draw up a fair “take-home vehicle” policy, even if it does not change anything that occurred, Friday, this problem will raise its “ugly” head, again. And, maybe Holliman is “dead on”, beyond what he even imagines.  Perhaps the bigger issue is not about the taking of vehicles home, but, rather, establishing policies to ensure that all administrators are performing their duties correctly.  And, that has nothing to do with taking your vehicle home.

Notes:  Leroy Brooks announced that he was not running for Mayor at Friday’s meeting. What made this interesting, was that Robert Smith was in the audience, with the Mayor’s Youth Commission.  There have been lots of rumors circulating that Leroy was running, but he ended those discussions, on Friday.

“Two thumbs up” to the organizers of Friday’s County Government Day.  As always, it was an enjoyable afternoon and a great way to say thank you to County employees!!!!!

Joseph B. St. John

Mr. MoJo Rising

Originally Published in the May 2, 2012 Print Edition

One Comment on “Lowndes County Board of Supervisors”

  1. Ken Phelps Says:

    What does Lowndes County written guidance say about what positions are authorized to have phones? That is the question! Not the person holding the position. Stop the bickering and start earning the hard earned tax payers money that you call your salary!!!!

    Reply

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