It’s the kind of thing that comes down to simple terms: It’s not about you.
— Neil Diamond
Periodically, the Dougherty County and Albany City commissions appoint citizens to various advisory boards, committees and commissions whose purpose is to provide direction on issues related to the boards’ special areas of interest.
Citizens apply for membership to the boards, and they are selected by majority vote of the city and county commissions. Some of the boards require specific qualifications; others require only citizenship. The average citizen rarely, if ever, hears of many of the boards that meet in relative obscurity; other groups have significant impact on the day-to-day operations of city and county government.
The Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority, Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission Board, Albany Dougherty Planning Commission, Dougherty Library Board, Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission, Dougherty Tax Assessors Board, the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, Dougherty County Board of Elections and Registration and other such groups are among the appointed boards that dramatically impact city and county functions.
Unfortunately, as those who regularly attend some of the various boards’ meetings can attest, it is painfully obvious that some of the appointees have no business being in a position that can potentially impact the spending of taxpayer money, laws that determine societal rule or other functions that are vital to daily life in this community.
While covering some of these boards’ meetings for this newspaper, I have witnessed:
n Members sleeping while testimony is being given;
n Members texting or talking on cellphones in the middle of meetings;
n Members being openly belligerent to citizens asked to give testimony at a meeting;
n Members refuse to comply with established protocol, even after being repeatedly reminded of such protocol by their board’s chairman;
- Members refuse to recuse themselves from voting on matters for which they have a personal interest;
- Members ask asinine questions that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic being discussed;
- Members argue openly with fellow board members;
- Members attempt to intimidate citizens whose views differ from theirs;
- Members walk into meetings sometimes as late as 45 minutes and disrupt the proceedings;
- Members walk into a meeting late and still vote on a topic that was discussed thoroughly before they even came into the room;
- Members refuse to consider any bit of information that does not fit their obvious agenda;
- Members try to further personal political causes while serving as an appointee;
- Members, out of a sense of anger, refuse to participate in the required business of their board.
As many as 90 to 95 percent of the citizens who are selected for these various boards, I think, honestly try to serve the community by listening to testimony that is presented, discussing the issues with an open mind, asking pertinent questions when they don’t understand some of the sometimes complicated topics that are being discussed and making decisions that they honestly feel are in the best interest of the community.
But that other 5 to 10 percent, the appointees who — amazingly — feel that their position on a volunteer committee somehow imbues them with a greater power than was ever intended, not only hurt the legitimacy of the board they’ve been appointed to serve on, they actually pose a legitimate threat to the city’s very well-being.
City and county taxpayers have every right to demand that these appointees serve in their best interest, especially when they have been granted the authority to make decisions on how those taxpayers’ dollars are spent.
Sadly, some of the appointees, particularly those who are obviously well out of their element on any given board, are never seriously vetted by commissioners before they are approved for membership. Some are appointed to pay off political debt; some are appointed — as City Commissioner Tommie Postell so vividly pointed out recently — to maintain some self-perceived racial quota; some are appointed to strictly follow the dictates of a powerful group or entity, puppets serving a behind-the-scenes puppetmaster.
While there are, apparently, no hard-and-fast rules that city and county board appointees must adhere to, citizens in the community would be better-served by a more thorough commission vetting process.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.