County Commission clash continues

Steve Brown has continued his campaign of very publicly criticizing the direction the commission has taken since he was replaced as chairman at the beginning of the year.

In addition to his criticism of Chairman Charles Oddo, Brown now wants to limit some of the “undue control” he believes County Administrator Steve Rapson has.

Brown added two items to next week’s meeting agenda that are designed to reign in Rapson’s power, something Brown claims he has complained about for “over a year” with no results.

Brown’s seeking to have all policy and procedure changes made official by a vote of the commission, and also to reduce Rapson’s spending limit to $50,000.

Brown said in a letter to the editor that he had been involved in allowing Rapson to have “undue control of certain areas in spending and the creation of policies and procedures” and wants to correct that “mistake”.

“We will have two items on the March 26 Board of Commissioners meeting, in which I hope to correct wrongs that I helped to create,” Brown wrote. “The intentions of the Board were pure, but I lost confidence in the process some time back. We have areas where accountability is lacking.

“Government must be open, transparent and accountable and I admit my mistakes and want to correct them.”

In addition to this stance on Rapson, Brown has continued to have a back-and-forth with chairman Charles Oddo over what he perceives to be an attempt to restrain his free speech. The argument goes back to his attempt to do a presentation on his proposed resolution that would have outlined the county’s position toward state level transportation funding, particularly with regards to House Bill 170.

Brown said he was denied the right to present that resolution by Oddo, though Oddo disagrees and said, rather, that Brown had submitted materials and a supporting Powerpoint presentation too late, the latter coming the day of the meeting. Oddo said that the commission’s decision to table Brown’s resolution and exclude the Powerpoint presentation were part of an effort to maintain the policies of the board and keep meetings consistent.

Brown totally disagreed, repeatedly saying the rules were only being selectively enforced to silence him. He’s gone on to quibble with multiple details of procedure at subsequent meetings, reiterating the commission is only selectively enforcing rules.

Most recently, Brown shared an e-mail chain between himself and other commissioners with the media. In the chain, Oddo said he was made aware Brown had done an interview with WSB-TV about Lake Peachtree and asked that Brown allow the chairman to speak on behalf of the county.

“In any situation regarding any County subject, not just lake Peachtree, independent actions by individual commissioners on our Board can cause harm and possibly put the County in difficult legal situations,” Oddo wrote in the e-mail. “Protocol in the past has been for the Chairman to speak publicly on issues pertaining to the County.

“It would be appropriate to direct such requests for County positions to the Chairman, and the Chairman can respond or have the most appropriate person respond,” Oddo continued. “In this case, Commissioner Brown conducted the interview without any notification to the County Administrator, the County Clerk, the Chairman, or anyone else to my knowledge.”

Oddo was supported in the e-mail chain by Commissioner David Barlow, who also took a jab at Brown.

“I agree chairman Oddo,” Barlow wrote. “In the past, there was no problem allowing the chairman to be the official spokesperson. My understanding is that egotistical narcissistic individuals have a difficult time being a team player. You have my full support.”

In his lengthy response, Brown said Oddo was being “irrational and downright ridiculous”.

“Commissioner Barlow’s snide remarks aside, it is never a good idea in a free nation espousing democratic ideas with guaranteed protections of free speech to attempt to censor or prohibit anyone from expressing themselves,” Brown wrote. “I have routinely worked the news media across metro Atlanta both in and out of elected office. They request that I participate and I comply and freely express my thoughts.”

Brown, as he has consistently done, also compared the current situation on the commission unfavorably to the former regime under Herb Frady, whereas he has contrasted what he believes were two very positive years under his lead.

He pointed out in his e-mail that Frady had never complained that he did television interviews and wrote op-eds.

“As you know, I do not believe in censorship,” Brown wrote. “I am never going to submit my writings or conversation points to Chairman Oddo or anyone else for review and editing. Chairman Oddo did not elect me nor does he have the power to violate my First Amendment rights.

“In fact, I wish he would stop attempting to trample my rights,” Brown’s letter continued. “He is a board chairman with limited duties, not a dictator. There was no protocol, Mr. Chairman, regarding such matters from the previous two years. In those years, the chairman did not run around demanding control over anyone’s speech and open speech was actually encouraged. ¬†Such remarks are a bit hypocritical seeing how the open format of conducting meetings from the previous two years is being totally ignored in exchange for bias and selective enforcement of the rules.”

Brown also said that in his two years as chairman there were “no complaints related to public expression,” yet this year “we seem to be compiling quite a list of them.”

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