Commissioners question county administrator's job performance
by Laura Camper
news@cleburnenews.com
May 13, 2013 | 11502 views |  0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A power struggle reared up at the Cleburne County Commission work session Monday as two commissioners questioned the county administrator’s handling of his job.

County Commissioner Emmett Owen made two recommendations he wants put to a vote at the next meeting. One was to review County Administrator Steve Swafford’s contract and ask the county attorney to give an assessment. In addition, Owen wanted to assign commissioners to oversee the day-to-day operations of county departments.

“I feel like that we’re being pushed out,” Owen said as he introduced his recommendations.

Owen said he wanted to know more of what goes on in county government and if the commissioners each oversaw their assigned departments, then they would have a better understanding of what’s going on.

He brought up the issue of how long it took him to get a copy of Swafford’s contract after he requested it. It’s a complaint Owen has brought up before.

Swafford said he did give Owen a copy of his contract and county engineer Shannon Robbins’ contract as soon as he heard about the requests. Owen confirmed that he does have a copy of the contract now. But Owen said it’s not a question of whether he has a copy of the contract.

“When I first came into office, I got brow beat,” Owen said.

Commissioner Laura Cobb said she believed it was the obligation of the commissioners to know what the county is spending on every aspect of county government including the contracts.

Commission Chairman Ryan Robertson, who also serves as the Cleburne County probate judge, asked Owen why he was making the recommendations.

“You’re looking at a County Commission that’s been in the black for 14 years and there’s all this doubt about the system we have in place,” Robertson said. “I don’t know where all this is coming from unless it’s a control issue.”

Owen interrupted, “Probably is a control issue,” and then laughed.

County attorney Doug Ghee said the commissioners probably could pass resolutions based on Owen’s recommendations.

Two commissioners will be unable to attend the commission meeting on May 20 when Owen requested the items be put to a vote. Robertson asked that Owen postpone the items until the following meeting when all the commissioners could be present.

Owen didn’t answer during the meeting, but after the meeting he said he would speak to the other commissioners and if they wanted to vote on the proposals he would wait.

Immediately after discussion of Owen’s recommendations, Robertson brought up a letter Cobb wrote to Swafford and sent to the other commissioners charging that Swafford did not give a resident the attention she needed and the resident lost money because of it.

“I understand the issue, however a Cleburne County resident was not given the attention on this matter she deserved,” Cobb wrote in the letter.

Cobb denied the letter was a reprimand. She said it was a reaction to a complaint by a resident.

Swafford brought all the paperwork concerning the woman’s Federal Emergency Management Agency claim. He showed why the claim had been denied and also that the county had appealed the decision but it was denied again. He told Cobb that the woman had received an explanation by the county employee handling the grants.

“What more can we do?” Swafford asked.

Cobb said Swafford should have called the woman himself.

In other business the commissioners:

-Heard a request by the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce to support the organizations buy-local campaign with a $1,000 donation.

-Heard a request by a representative of the Heflin Industrial Board to offer a resolution supporting its work.

-Heard that work on County Road 10 is still being held up by some homeowners who have fences or mailboxes on county property along the road.

-Heard from Robbins that the governor awarded the county $5 million through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement program as well as the state Rural Assistance Match Program grants. The money will be used to repair or replace aging bridges in the county.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.
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