Commission chair voices surprise at procedural change
July 11, 2017
By Bill Wilson
The Anniston Star

The Cleburne County Commission voted unanimously Monday night  to hire Jason Odom as the new county attorney to replace longtime county attorney Doug Ghee. Commission Chairman Ryan Robertson accused the commissioners of disregarding procedure, however, in the way the resolution’s wording changed between last week’s work session and Monday’s meeting.

During the work session it was agreed, according to Robertson, that all three applicants for county attorney would attend Monday’s meeting so they could meet the commissioners. Yet Monday the resolution contained only one option and that was to hire Odom.

Robertson was not pleased that he was never told of the changes to the agenda.

“As chairman this is not what we discussed in the work session and no one ever called me, I don’t know how this got done, I don’t know why we have a work session if we don’t do what we say we are going to do,” Robertson said.

“There must have been some collusion going on,” Robertson added.

Robertson asked Commissioner Laura Cobb if anyone had called her about it and she said no. He then asked Commissioner Terry Hendrix the same question. A tense exchange ensued.

“Did someone call you, Terry?” asked Robertson.

“I did call,” Hendrix replied.

“You called everybody?” Robertson asked, and Hendrix replied “I did.”

Robertson then said “So that’s collusion, right?” and Hendrix said, “No, now wait a minute, all I called was and said that we don’t know if we can get everybody here Monday but would everybody be happy with us not having anybody here,” referring to the three people applying for the attorney’s post.

“Did you call me? But you didn't call me? If I’m chairman we have a work session and I’m not included, I’m not at liberty to know what’s going on,” Robertson said.

The commission subsequently voted to hire Odom.

Odom will receive a retainer of $750 per month, and any additional work, projects and assignments will be billed at $125 per hour.  Odom’s term as county attorney will begin August 1.

The commission also voted unanimously to approve the purchase of a new Chevrolet Tahoe at the cost of $32,016.64 for the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Department. The commission has a resolution requiring any purchase orders over $4,000 to be approved by the commission. There was a discussion to carry over the resolution but it was rescinded.

Commissioner Hendrix was unsure if the sheriff’s department needed the vehicle.

“I don’t have enough information to vote on the this because nobody from the sheriff’s department has come and told us why they need this vehicle,” Hendrix said.

County Administrator Steve Swafford told the commission it has no distinct authority to determine one way or another how the sheriff uses the funds that are allocated by the commission.

“That resolution is not regulated to the sheriff, you’re impeding his ability to follow on his own constitutional authority,” Swafford said.

Outgoing county attorney Ghee said there is nothing wrong with asking the sheriff to justify the expenditure.

The commission did not pass a resolution, due to a lack of a second, that would have given a one-time lump sum payment to retirees of the Cleburne County Commission.