Commission may ask for board updates

ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty County commissioners may be asking representatives of boards to which they appoint members to periodically appear before the commission to talk about what their respective boards are doing.

The commission discussed that topic this morning after last week's action by the Federal Trade Commission that is -- temporarily, at least -- holding up the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County's purchase of Palmyra Medical Center.

While no decision was made to require the appearances before the County Commission, County Commissioner John Hayes -- the board's representative on the Hospital Authority -- is expected to update his fellow commissioners on what that board is doing at a future commission meeting.

The FTC was critical of the role that has been played by the Hospital Authority, which it described as a "strawman" political agency whose primary purpose in the hospital purchase proposal was to hide the transaction from federal scrutiny.

In its complaint in U.S. District Court, the FTC contends that the Hospital Authority's assertion that the purchase is non-reviewable by federal agencies because it is a state-created authority is bogus, and that the Hospital Authority has not acted independently of Phoebe Putney Health System in at least 21 years.

U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands has approved a temporary restraining order on the purchase until both sides can file briefs with the court next month. He specifically asked each side to address the question of the Hospital Authority's role.

Sands would decide whether to lift the order or to keep it in place until the FTC can conduct a hearing before an administrative judge in September.

In discussion Monday, the commission attempted to weigh its role in appointing members to various boards versus what would be considered as "meddling" in the board's various affairs.

County Attorney Spencer Lee told the commission that often the point of appointing board members to things like the board of tax assessors, is to create a distance between the commission and the board that is designed to carry out the work so that they can get the job done.

The county has several boards that it appoints members of the public to serve on. Some meet frequently like the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and the Board of Tax Assessors, others, like the Dougherty County Development Authority and the Electrical Board meet as needed.