It’s time we start touting the great things happening in Effingham County. January 2011, three newly elected county commissioners took office in the hopes of providing new ideas, positive changes, and mostly more jobs and lower taxes. I intend to do everything possible to make that a reality.
I hate addressing ugly misinformation. Yet, the taxpayers deserve the truth. Not what’s twisted, and handed to lawyers usually on the taxpayers’ backs, often costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The chairman’s recent position in the paper is incorrect. The truth is: The commission has not attempted to “take” his vote. We properly attempted to define his duties, which includes “when he votes.” When the people voted in a non-binding referendum, they were asked: “Should there be a chairperson of the Effingham County Board of Commissioners elected County wide?” Then legislators wrote a law adding a chairman at large, stating that he will vote on “matters that come before the board.” One would assume they intentionally wrote his duties vaguely to allow local government to define them. There have been assumptions, discernment, and usurping of authority regarding this position. When Mr.
Zeigler’s attorneys write the explanation of his voting, they “insert” the word “all.” Vote on all matters. When they write a quote of the legislation, the word all is appropriately omitted. “All” is not what the state law says, and it is almost unheard of in Georgia for an at-large chairman to create tie votes.
Mr. Zeigler stated in the newspaper that his current voting on all matters, creating a possible tie, was intentionally designed to “stop or slow down” existing county commissioners. Hmmmmmm. If true, that could have serious ramifications. I’ve spoken with two state legislators, and neither indicated that was the reasoning. This is the opposite of how government should work. We’re one of the only counties in Georgia that have allowed ourselves to be “stuck” in a quagmire of possible ineffectual government. Mr. Zeigler has hired lawyers to “warn us to cease” before ever attempting one discussion with four of us on this matter.
This is another example of “abuse of litigation” and “abuse of discretion,” that has been common, at the taxpayers’ expense. Only the lawyers benefit. I attempted an e-mail to Mr. Zeigler prior to our first meeting, which he did not answer. I assume he did what he told me he would do upon receipt of my e-mails. Delete without reading, because he doesn’t like my tone and etiquette. This was after I objected when he informed the commissioners that he wouldn’t “allow” us to place any items on the first agenda that “he” didn’t deem to be an emergency. He garnered this “full control” of our county’s agenda from wording in that same legislation that says he “sets the agenda.” Another example of why we must locally clarify the definition of “sets the agenda,” and “vote on matters.” I don’t believe it means “to have complete control of the agenda without respect for other commissioners,” or vote on “all” matters. Mr. Zeigler’s treatment of the commissioners, and public participants was disrespectful, demeaning, unprofessional, threatening, intimidating, inflammatory, and defamatory. He should be censured. We cannot conduct the “people’s” business in “fear” of what will happen during such an outburst. His recent insult of realtors, developers, (small business owners) and republicans in the local newspaper is something that is as unacceptable as his past reference to citizens as the “Village Idiots.”
I believe Mr. Zeigler has actually done what his attorneys are accusing the commission of doing. By not “allowing” our items on the agenda, he
deprived us of our given rights to properly represent those that elected us.
We didn’t go into our meeting unprepared. We received information regarding home rule at our Association of County Commissioners of Georgia training. We asked legal counsel at ACCG about this specific situation because it had been asked of us during our debates. They explained this should be appropriate, and referenced case law, which we researched. (Home rule has been used in Effingham previously.)
There have been many falsities spread and fear tactics used that have ended up negatively impacting all of our taxpayers. This has manifested itself in incompetency of governing. I was clearly warned that “telling the taxpayers the truth, would only hurt me.” That’s a risk worth taking. To allow misinformation to be reported as fact, without clarification is dangerous. There are many bold changes necessary in order to “free our local economy.” “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, and expecting a different result.” It’s time to give new ideas a chance.
Progress, like childbirth, can be painful, but the rewards are indescribable. I look forward to a prosperous future with jobs created, taxes lower and services provided that will allow our children and grandchildren to stay here and have a prosperous future. It may be hard, but it will be worth it.
Vera Jones is the county commissioner for Effingham County’s 2nd District.