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CARLTON FLETCHER: Gaines application a blow to city/county process

OPINION: Aviation Commission asked to ignore deadline and reconsider nominations

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Rules are rules, and any fool can see …

— Kris Kristofferson

Albany and Dougherty County officials will readily tell you that it’s getting tougher to find qualified — heck, even unqualified in some cases — applicants to fill the various citizen boards and commissions that are crucial to the day-to-day operations of city and county government.

And anyone who knows her or who watched her serve as a member of the Dougherty County Commission will tell you that Gloria Gaines not only fits in the “qualified candidate” category, she has the experience and knowledge to positively impact any board she’s a part of.

But action forced on the Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission this past week on Gaines’ behalf is not only wrong, it sets an ugly kind of precedent that opens officials to charges of cronyism, favoritism and service to a personal agenda rather than what’s right or wrong.

Just before terms on the various city/county boards and commissions expire, officials send out notices — in the county’s legal organ, which is this newspaper, on their shared website, on a city/county public access TV channel and through other likely-to-be-seen media sources — advertising the position and asking for resumes of interested applicants. If the position does not have term limits, persons whose tenures are expiring are free to reapply.

With seats on the Aviation Commission currently occupied by Drs. Charles Gillespie and Bill Mayher expiring, the city sent out notices advertising the positions. Both Gillespie and Mayher, who, incidentally, are deeply involved in functions at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport and who fly out of the airport regularly, reapplied for their seats on the board.

There were no other applicants.

Since the City Commission has the final say over which citizens are appointed to the various boards and commissions under its charge, the board asks members of those bodies to make recommendations based on committee votes. In July, with the deadline for application having expired and Mayher and Gillespie the only applicants, the Aviation Commission went through the process of formally voting to recommend that the two be reappointed.

Cut-and-dried.

At Monday’s August meeting, however, an agenda item indicated that the commission was to take another vote, but this time with Gaines included as a candidate. Mayher, a neurosurgeon who chairs the commission, told the board, “You will recall at our last meeting we nominated two people for positions on the board. Ms. Gloria Gaines has since applied and, frankly, it is well after the deadline. But we’ve been asked to address the issue again.”

In a question-answer session with commission members, Keith Fletcher asked Gaines why she’d waited so long past the deadline to submit her application, and her non-answer answer was, “I talked with someone about it, and they said, ‘Go ahead and submit the application, although I don’t know if they’ll consider it.’”

Told, essentially, that they had to consider it, the board voted again. All three candidates were nominated. Mayher got six votes, Gillespie five and Gaines one. Again, cut-and-dried.

But, as Mayher noted, the vote by the Aviation Commission is only a recommendation. The City Commission will make the final vote, and one commissioner — Tommie Postell — took pains at the City Commission’s work session Tuesday to make special note that Gaines was included among the applicants.

When she spoke with the Aviation Commission, Gaines did not say who the “someone” was who approached her about applying for a position on the board, but there are rumblings that her quest is political in nature. If that’s true, and Gaines is actually appointed to the board over the recommendation of the Aviation Commission, the city government will have taken a giant step backward, undoing some of its recent good works that have built positive buzz in the community.

It has nothing to do with qualifications. It has nothing to do with personalities. It has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with adhering to rules that are supposed to apply to everyone. If anyone should be aware of those rules and the importance of following them, it is a former elected official whose duties included oversight of those rules.

If the City Commission decides at its business meeting Tuesday night to ignore the rules that govern board appointments, it will all but destroy the credibility of its application process.