At the Decatur County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, April 22, Commissioner Russell Smith used his comment time at the end of the meeting to directly ask County Attorney Brown Moseley “Who directs the county attorney to make open records requests?’
The county attorney said he acts at the direction of county commissioners; Smith stated he was not aware of directing the county attorney to present the City of Bainbridge an open records request on April 15. The request concerned the household utility records of City Manager Chris Hobby. Last Wednesday, The Bainbridge Post-Searchlight reported that the city manager had accrued significant past-due utility bills between 2011-2013 and was apparently allowed to “catch up” with his payments at a later date.
Commissioner Smith said he personally believed that the county’s decision to make an open records request regarding Hobby’s bills was a personal attack in response to the county government losing the city’s garbage business. The county attorney made the open records request a couple of hours before the Bainbridge City Council met on April 15 and voted to move the city’s waste disposal from the Decatur County Landfill to a landfill operated by Waste Management in Campbellton, Fla.
Smith and Commissioner Butch Mosely both said they felt city and county officials needed to work together better. Commissioner Jan Godwin said that she had received an email shortly before the April 22 meeting from Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds. Godwin said Mayor Reynolds invited commissioners to meet with the City Council at a Memorial Hospital classroom to talk next Tuesday, April 29. Godwin said she personally planned to go.
Commission Chairman Frank Loeffler said that if city and county officials couldn’t work together going forward, then he would be in favor of the governments consolidating.
After the meeting was adjourned, Sowegalive.com asked Loeffler about the open records request. In a 4:20 recording, which you can hear below, Loeffler said the county attorney acted on the consensus of the commissioners, which included himself.
Loeffler said The Post-Searchlight made a separate open records request on Hobby’s utility bills and published an article before county officials actually received their response to the open records request. However, Loeffler stated that if the newspaper had not published an article, county officials would have presented the information to local media in an attempt to bring Hobby’s past due bills to public attention. Loeffler claimed that county officials had known about the bills for “2-3 months” but only acted recently after they felt confident the rumor was true.