Last week, the Barrow County Board of Commissioners voted to “censure” its chairman, Danny Yearwood.
Yearwood has been controversial for the last 12 months as BOC chairman on a variety of subjects. This latest fiasco and censure vote came after Yearwood issued a press release that some said divulged sensitive information about ongoing lawsuits against the county.
Yearwood’s critics, of which there are many, have called on the BOC to stem the chairman’s power, to oust him from office, or to make him stop talking.
But the reality is, the board doesn’t have the authority to control the chairman. The Barrow charter specifically gives the BOC chairman the day-to-day authority to run the county. Legally, the board can only set policy and control the budget; it cannot intervene in every dispute or every decision its chairman makes.
In effect, the censure action was mostly symbolic; a public paddling that has no teeth of enforcement.
The worrisome part of all this is that some believe the BOC should engage in litigation against the chairman to rein him in.
But that would be a mistake. An internal lawsuit from the BOC against its own chairman would be a disaster for Barrow County. Who wins or loses isn’t important; the suit itself would shatter what little dignity is left of the county government’s image.
Another option would be to legislatively change the Barrow charter to cut the chairman’s power. But moving to a hired county manager government, as some suggest, isn’t a silver bullet. Barrow tried that informally before the Yearwood administration and that experiment led to the county’s massive debt and financial problems. (That former manager Keith Lee piped up last week critical of Yearwood was the pot calling the kettle black. It was Lee who misapplied a payroll study that hiked county spending and led to many of Barrow’s current financial problems.)
There are no simple, quick or easy answers here. Yearwood is a maverick who shuns advice and whose temperament is ill-suited to governing.
But the people elected him. He’s the chairman. And while confrontation has its place in public discourse, name-calling and whining won’t fix the problem.
This board and this chairman have to find a way to work together for the citizens of Barrow County. That will require cooperation, not confrontation.
Since the Board can control policy and budget - perhaps they should set up a sanctions policy that would deduct pay from the Chairman every time he says something stupid.
The Chairman is not God
01/30/10 at 07:32 PM
He IS accountable for his actions. The BOC COULD TABLE ever item that comes up before them for a vote. Basically, they can shut down the government. This would also mean they could table Angie's pay raises and just how long do you think she would keep lawsuits going if she knew she didn't have an limitless supply of funds.
Your gratuitous comment about Keith Lee was unnecessaty, unfounded and untrue. Mr. Lee was never a county manager. He was an administrator who answered to the chairman and the BOC. Any policies that were implemanted were the responsibility of the BOC. Anything not approved by them could have been altered. Your categorization of Mr. Lee's attempt to point out the statements of the current chairman being false as "piped up" is taking too much journalistic license. Blaming him for salary increases is wrong. It equates to the new board members blaming the CFO for those salaries. Their statements I can attribute to a lack of knowledge. This newspaper. for which I have great respect , taking this position is very sad.
The BOC voted to hire the Archer firm and
voted to implement its recommendations.
You owe Mr. Lee an apology.