WR City Council meeting takes ugly turn

WARNER ROBINS — Councilman Daron Lee, during the closing moments of Monday night’s City Council meeting, made a motion asking for an investigative audit into city functions.

He said the surprise motion, which had been on the agenda at Thursday’s called council meeting, is to look for wrongdoing in the first part of 2010.

It passed 4-2.

“It’s something I’ve asked for before, but it keeps being put off,” said Lee, who has been on the council since January. “If the books aren’t wrong, what’s the problem?”

Councilman Paul Shealy seconded the motion, and Mayor Chuck Shaheen seemed to take offense.

“You asked me not to go along with this because you were afraid for your job,” Shealy said to Shaheen.

“I did not say I was worried about my job. I’ll call the (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) tomorrow to investigate me,” Shaheen retorted. “And I think right now you’re out of order, Mr. Shealy.”

And what had been a mostly calm and quiet meeting for nearly an hour quickly became chaotic.

Residents began shouting out from the audience. Councilmen argued with and talked over each other. One man was escorted out of the meeting. Shaheen threatened Shealy with the same fate.

Dean Cowart, who previously served on the council, told the board to personally investigate the departments before letting in an outsider.

If they flag things at that point, he said, commence the independent audit.

Outside of that, he said, the public divide needed to end.

“Read the national news guys,” Cowart said. “We’re there. You all (need to argue) in closed session upstairs.

“I’m embarrassed for you.”

Residents made their ways to the lectern, taking shots at the mayor and the portion of the council that has been against him in most votes, with comments disapproving of the infighting and, as one resident called it, “the never-ending and counterproductive squabbling.”

Earlier in the meeting, the council voted to annex several properties into the city but, as has become the norm in Warner Robins, not before a few awkward moments.

The property involved in the annexation request — two residential and one commercial properties on Corder Road, Russell Parkway and McLean Drive, respectively — was left over from the city’s previous annexation last month. Owners will receive the same benefits as city residents, as well as the lowered insurance rate.

The motion, made by Councilman Tom Simms Jr., seemed headed for approval until Councilman Bob Wilbanks asked Simms to split his motion. Wilbanks planned to vote against the annexation, but said he would vote to waive a second reading if the annexation was approved.

Simms was against the move. “I’m not going to make that motion,” he said of the second motion.

It was made by Councilman John Williams. But Simms voted against the measure to waive the second reading of the motion. A second reading will now have to take place.

The council also approved changes to an ordinance on activation fees for city utilities. Changes to the ordinance would include a $65 activation fee per home, $80 activation fee per business and $35 per apartment unit or mobile home within a group.

Resident Vickie Barnes dedicated her late husband William’s American flag and medals to the city. Several Vietnam veterans, including former City Council candidate Art Howard, were on-hand and participated in the presentation.

Before the meeting, Henrietta McIntyre spent some time talking with those in attendance — and taking signatures.

She was collecting some of the signatures for a recall campaign against five of the six members of the council. It takes 100 signatures to petition for a recall of an elected official. Once those signatures are collected, a judge will check their authenticity and decide whether grounds exist for a recall. Then, the matter would go before the voters.