Lo and behold, we are about to unveil the mysteries of the “wet bar” inside the office of Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby’s office.
Often referenced by anonymous commenters on Topix, we are going to show you what the “wet bar,” as also mentioned in an open records request sent by Decatur County Attorney Brown Moseley, actually looks like.
We asked Attorney Moseley why Decatur County commissioners specifically asked for invoices detailing the cost of the “wet bar” in their open records request. Here’s what Moseley said:
“It’s a total waste of taxpayer money to have a wet bar in a private office … it’s the same thing with the rock. We are going to find out what it cost to have installed.”
The rock Moseley referred to is the one seen in the greenspace outside the renovated City Hall, off Broughton Street. We’ll get to it in a second.
I’m writing this article in first person, as Brennan Leathers, because it’s important to me that readers understand that I have seen the inside of City Manager Chris Hobby’s office on numerous occasions, both before and after the City Hall renovation. That is to say, there is no cover-up of what the contents of the wet bar really are just because they are currently the focus of scrutiny by Decatur County officials.
The city manager’s office is slightly bigger than his old office, and it was moved further back on the first floor, looking out onto Broughton Street. The primary reason the city manager’s office was moved is because the architect of the City Hall renovation made it a priority to put all customer-oriented functions of City Hall in the main lobby, entered on Broad Street. Although citizens are still welcome to visit the city manager at any time, it’s less likely that a person would go to City Hall to see the city manager, rather than pay a utility bill, a traffic fine or ask for information.
By the way, the furniture in Hobby’s office came from his old office before the renovation was completed. The Bainbridge City Council approved the expense a couple of years before the renovation work was done.
I also want to say that the “wet bar,” which I am leaving judgements on to you the reader, has not changed at any time since I toured City Hall when the renovation was newly completed last spring. In fact, the only changes I’ve noted in the appearance of Hobby’s office is that he’s added more personal items, such as family pictures.
Here’s a picture of the counter-top that is perhaps inaccurately called the wet bar. You can see a couple of coffee makers on top of the counter, as well as miscellaneous items like paper plates and coffee mugs. The pictures of “Barney Fife” from The Andy Griffith show belong to Hobby; he’s a fan of Don Knotts.
There are no alcoholic beverages in Hobby’s office. Just to prove it to you, I took a picture of the inside of the refrigerator, which is shared by Hobby and his administrative assistant, Allie Godwin.
That’s right, the contents of the refrigerator are a bottle of soda, a bottle of Gatorade, ketchup, a plastic bag containing fruit, a container of Greek yogurt and a package of sliced cheese. From time to time, water bottles are stocked in the fridge to offer to guests as refreshment.
Some of you might say, why does the city manager need a countertop with a sink and a mini-fridge in his office? First of all, there’s a basically identical setup in at least two other places: a first-floor break room and an upstairs conference room, all of which were part of the renovated city hall’s architectural plan.
Hobby says he receives a number of guests in his office, including other government officials, business people talking about economic or zoning issues, citizens and of course, the Mayor and City Council. The purpose of the countertop area and mini-fridge is to extend hospitality to those guests, some of whom come as a group. There is a large flat-panel monitor on the wall of the office, however, it’s not hooked up to cable or satellite TV. It’s actually a “smart board,” like the ones used in schools, that allows someone to write on the board or interact with a computer-driven presentation using a virtual pen.
For example, it’s used to display large spreadsheets of city government data, large maps, and yes, on occasion, Web content. I’ve personally never seen it turned on when I’ve been at Hobby’s office, and it’s not hooked up to a DVD player or Blu-Ray player of any kind.
Back to the rock.
Up until the 2013 renovation, what is now basically a small park behind City Hall next to Broughton Street used to be a parking lot for city employees and a drive-through for dropping off city utility payments. Soon after the main renovation was complete, the City Council approved the use of a small amount of money leftover from the approximately $4.5 million renovation project to turn the former parking lot into a greenspace. It’s meant to be an area where visitors to Bainbridge City Council meetings can chat before or after meetings, or just a place for citizens to stop and relax for a second.
The rock, which was pulled out of the Flint River in Bainbridge, has a fountain flowing through it. It wasn’t sculpted or polished in any way, it was just washed off and placed upright. There are bricks containing the fountain’s water, and at night, there are lights illuminating both the greenspace and the rock / fountain.
Hobby said the rock, which came from the river, cost the city nothing. One might assume that there were charges to hook up the fountain, install the lights, do some minor landscaping and pay for the associated electricity. Also money spent for the concrete and bricks in the greenspace, as well as the benches. However, all of the material costs came from the budget of the City Hall renovation, which was paid for using proceeds from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.