A Macon man’s complaint against an organization with Macon ties was dismissed by the state’s ethics agency.
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission dismissed Cade Joiner’s complaint against Better Georgia Inc., saying the complaint doesn’t actually claim how the organization violated state law or offer any evidence to support the claim, according to paperwork collected by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Joiner said Better Georgia is engaging in political activities without declaring independent expenditures against campaigns. Joiner said 21 of 23 articles on the organization’s website were opposed to Gov. Nathan Deal, and 32 of 37 emails attacked him. Joiner claimed that’s a violation of the organization’s status as a 501(c)4 social welfare organization.
Such a status is given under federal, not state law. That status is at the heart of probes of the Internal Revenue Service.
Better Georgia’s local board members have included Amy Morton, Jarome Gatreaux and Al Tillman. Tillman, now a commissioner, is no longer a board member. Morton, a Democratic activist, is chairwoman.
Yes, your vote matters
In case you missed it, there’s an election Tuesday. Races include a pair of Houston County school board seats, but voters across the state will return to the polls for Democratic and Republican state school superintendent races. And one of the big highlights will be the Republican runoff for the U.S. Senate seat.
That makes Tuesday a rather important day. The prognosticators at FiveThirtyEight released an item this week titled, “Democrats Are in a Perilous Position in 2014 Senate Races.” Polls cited by the organization give Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn a slight advantage to win the race, but FiveThirtyEight’s evaluation knocks 21 points off that, one of the biggest spreads in competitive seats.
Whether you favor Republicans or Democrats, Tuesday’s election will be important. Vote.
For information on the races, visit www.macon.com/elections and mvp.sos.state.ga.us online.
on the courthouse steps
A 12-acre parcel of land scheduled for auction at next month’s tax sale on the Dodge County Courthouse steps comes with a history of contention due to local politics, an error and a $35,000 back tax bill.
The plot in Eastman’s industrial park near Graham Industrial Boulevard dropped from the city tax roll when the property-tax-exempt Dodge County-Eastman Development Authority bought it in 2000. However, even with a few state-financed capital improvements, the authority was unable to find a suitable tenant and complete the purchase. The authority returned it free of charge three years later to the seller, Pruett Holdings LLLP.
But the land did not return to the tax roll until at least 2012.
“The tax assessor’s office has confirmed that they made errors within their department that led to the current situation,” said state Rep. Jimmy Pruett, R-Eastman. He consults for the current owners at Mosquito Creek Properties and was a partner in Pruett Holdings, which owned the property until 2009.
Prodded by some of Pruett’s political enemies, tax officials last year took another look and informed the state lawmaker that they had not charged the roughly $5,000 due annually for several years. The balance for the years 2005 through 2011 has landed the plot on the courthouse steps.
The Dodge County Tax Assessor’s Office referred questions to the county attorney, who could not be reached for comment.
Pruett said Mosquito Creek is “working with the county to resolve the outstanding taxes.”
Trash in the house
The Macon-Bibb County landfill’s recent passage of state inspection is a sign that government consolidation is working and that jobs in the Solid Waste, Public Works and associated departments need to be kept in-house, rather than privatized, Commissioner Al Tillman said Friday.
Tillman, chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Commission’s Facilities & Engineering Committee, said he’s proud of landfill workers and hopes the success helps their morale. But employees are worried by talk that their jobs might be outsourced, he said.
Before consolidation, Bibb County contracted with a private firm to collect trash, while the former Macon city government handled it in-house and also ran the landfill. The landfill had passed inspection only once, in November 2012, during the past several years. The last failure, on Jan. 23, brought a $50,000 state fine.
But recently, after workers and equipment from several former city and county departments were poured into the job, state inspectors gave the landfill a passing grade of 90, according to a July 14 letter from Environmental Protection Division District Manager Todd Bethune to Mayor Robert Reichert.
Having shown that they can succeed, Tillman said, government workers should get assurance that their jobs are safe. When the question of garbage privatization came up in late 2013, Reichert said he wanted to let both systems operate side-by-side for a year, then compare their efficiency.
Houston County commissioners have scheduled a called meeting for 12:30 p.m. July 28 in the commission’s board room in the Warner Robins Annex building to set the millage rate. The property tax rate is not expected to change.
Raising their standards
Perry City Council members indicated a willingness to formally begin applying the city’s personnel policies to department heads, including the city manager. Those department heads are contracted employees who haven’t been covered by the policies, which cover things such as nepotism, Mayor Jimmy Faircloth said.
“Since I don’t believe in nepotism, that’s fine by me,” Councilwoman Phyllis Bynum-Grace replied.
The council formally will consider adopting the policies for department heads later.
Try, try, try again
Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms started a news conference a few minutes late, when reporters for The Telegraph and one television station had been present for a while. Toms was finishing his remarks when another TV reporter showed up, leading Macon Transit CEO Rick Jones to wait to make his own remarks. Jones finished up as a third TV reporter arrived, leading both Jones and Toms to offer similar remarks twice, each, in the same news conference.
Perry’s economic development director, Mary Beth Bass, bid farewell to the government for which she’s worked the past two and a half years.
“I just want to say thank you for everything, and I’m going to try not to cry,” Bass told City Council members. Council members took turns alternately praising Bass and refusing to cut ties.
“I say, ‘Thank you, but you can’t leave,’’’ Riley Hunt offered. Mayor Jimmy Faircloth had his own take: “Thank you, Miss Bass. You will be missed -- but we still have your phone number.”
One of Bass’ projects, a strategic plan for the city, is expected to be drafted by the end of August. That work is being done by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which is hiring Bass away from the city.
The relatively small community of Perry is beginning the hiring process for 18 new firefighters; three battalion chiefs will be hired through another process. The city plans to more than double the size of its fire department, adding a new engine and increasing the number of staff on each truck. Applications and applicant packages are available through July 25 at www.perry-ga.gov.
Pay starts from $25,600 for fire recruits to $38,600 for experienced fire sergeants. By the middle of last week, 192 people had expressed interest in the jobs.
Writers Jim Gaines and Mike Stucka contributed to this report.