Challenge to Aldermen: Stand up to the Mayor

A potentially poor business decision (and one that just doesn’t make sense) and a possible Open Meetings Act violation occurred at the meeting of the Hazlehurst Board of Aldermen last Tuesday.

The short of it is this: approval to transfer a brand new Dodge Charger that was ordered for Fire Chief Gabe Harvey to the Police Department on a 3-2 vote was vetoed by Mayor Henry Banks.   Why?  Because the majority believed the Fire Chief should drive a pick-up truck, which makes pretty good sense given all the gear that is carried and the potential for passengers.  Plus, a Dodge Charger is becoming the choice for law enforcement.  And, two new trucks were recently purchased for the Water and Street Departments, respectively, on state contract.

The action occurred during an executive session requested to discuss personnel matters involving the Fire Department and was announced to the public afterwards.  So, the mayor and board got around the Open Meetings Act requirement pertaining to personnel and announcing the actions taken, but the vote and veto on transferring a vehicle doesn’t warrant a closed executive session–a violation of which is punishable by a fine and possible court costs.

The appearance of it is that some–or maybe even all–of the aldermen are afraid of standing up to Mayor Henry Banks–who likes to get his own way–in open session, or that Mayor Banks doesn’t like to discuss the dirty little details or tackle the tough issues in open session, thus requests for closed executive sessions based on personnel (a valid reason if true.)

We hope that’s not the case and remind all parties that they are to serve the public and not themselves.

Joe Buck Coates, publisher

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