BLUE RIDGE, Ga: With Post One-elect Johnny Scearce continuing to recover from COVID-19-related illnesses, Fannin County Commissioners discussed the board’s options until he assumes responsibilities.
At this time, there’s not a set timeline for Scearce to take his oath of office and begin his commission term. However, the law is ambiguous about when the oath of office must be administered – in other words, there’s not a deadline.
The most recent legislation concerning election officials in Fannin occurred in 1987, “Fannin County – Compensation, etc. of Board of Commissioners No. 1117.” In the act, it stated, “Thereafter, their successors shall be elected at the general election immediately preceding the expiration of their terms of office and shall take office on the first day of January immediately following their election for terms of four years and until their successors are elected and qualified.”
“Qualified” refers to a commissioner-elect taking the oath of office and being bonded. According to County Attorney Lynn Doss, since Scearce has yet to take his oath, former Post One Earl Johnson remains the commissioner.
“Mr. Johnson has agreed that if needed. He automatically holds over. His term of office doesn’t end until the next person is sworn in,” Doss explained. “He holds over with the same obligations and privileges as he has held for the previous four years to the extent needed, and he desires to and is willing to until Mr. Scearce can be sworn in.”
Chairman Jamie Hensley asked, “Let’s just say that Mr. Johnson decides he would be more than happy to help us. Three weeks down the road, he decides ‘I got out of it for a reason.”
According to Doss, if Johnson decided he didn’t want to continue with Post One duties, it wouldn’t be considered a vacancy because it doesn’t fall under the list of nine types of vacancies described by the state. It wouldn’t trigger a special election period because Johnson’s a “holdover” from the previous board until Scearce assumes his responsibilities.
“Then the two of you would continue on,” Doss asserted. She cited when Tommy Stephens died, the recall election, and other examples when two commissioners presided over the board.
However, none of those individuals were taking a new office at the time. The current situation has never occurred in Fannin County before.
The county attorney stated that the law doesn’t address how many meetings a commissioner can miss either. She cited the Georgia attorney general in 1991, who deemed that after three meetings with no communication as to why someone was absent, they can be “deemed to abandon their job.”
Georgia Code determines vacancies by the following criteria: death, resignation, competent tribunal declares office vacant, voluntary act or misfortune of the incumbent that renders them ineligible, non-citizens of state or county, failure to obtain certificates, commissions, or bond, and abandoning office.
Scearce made great strides to overcome COVID-19 and its related illnesses and would prefer to take the oath in person. If needed, he could obtain a doctor’s note to perform Post One duties remotely, but according to Doss, he physically doesn’t meet the “bodily infirmity” vacancy standard.
Hensley and Post Two Glenn Patterson wished Scearce a continued speedy recovery and prayers to him and his family.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga – The 2021 proposed county operating budget features a 2.8 percent increase from the 2020 budget.
The total will be $29,356,858 and a public hearing concerning the 2021 budget will take place on December 8, 2020 at 5:15 p.m. in third-floor assembly room. All interested parties are invited to attend. Following the public hearing, the board of commissioners will approve the budget during the December 8 commission meeting.
The 2020 budget was $28,564,665. The largest portion of the budget will go towards risk management, which includes health insurance. The county recently moved from self-insured to a fully insured plan.
“The challenge we have this year with the budget is the same challenge that every county, every state is having to deal with that is the [unexpected COVID-19 expenditures],” Chairman Stan Helton explained.
He cited the $2 billion of cutbacks in the state budget due to the pandemic. Helton also recognized that the hotel/motel tax and SPLOST assisted in seeing Fannin County through the difficult times.
“We really won’t know how the year is until the end of January when the new administration is here. By that time, they will have final 2020 revenue and cost numbers. My personal opinion that the times warrant being as conservative as we can with our budget, and at the same time, when the new administration is here, they’ll have a chance to look at it. If they choose to amend any department, they’ll have the option to do that.,” Helton furthered detail the reasoning behind the proposed budget.
Fannin hasn’t laid off or furloughed employees during the pandemic.
Post One Earl Johnson came out against the increase during a year when everyone is focused on saving money.
“I don’t know any of us that are spending more money…We’re not giving all our employees raising at least in my company and it’s kind of throughout all county governments,” Johnson said. “I’m going to ask everyone until this pandemic is over, we need to be very smart…I would suggest everyone be comfortable where you’re at.”
He added that he doesn’t want to leave “any future administration’s in a bind” and is against increasing any department’s budget in 2021. No one knows when the pandemic will end.
Post Two Glenn Patterson stated that some people are still hurting financially and inquired to the cost of living increases.
Helton then explained that the only increased in the 2021 budget were part of a state unfunded mandate for salary increases to reelected officials. It’s a state-level requirement for county governments to fulfill. CFO Robin Gazaway explained that one elected official will receive an estimated salary increase of $9,000 from county funds. The state doesn’t have to pay anything.