Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

February 21, 2014

Council members debate ethics

VALDOSTA — On Thursday night, at the Valdosta City Council meeting, Councilman Robert Yost requested that the Council review a few of its own ordinances.

Yost had already proposed both of these items at the Council’s retreat in January, but they were dropped due to lack of support.

“I feel like this council needs to address a couple of its own ordinances, and I’ve already talked to the City Manger and the Mayor and asked them to take care of these items and have them added to our agenda,” Yost said. “One of those is that I feel that we need to tie the pay of the City Council to their attendance.”

Yost also requested that the Council review its charter and turn the responsibility of hiring and firing of the Judge over to the City Manager because Yost felt that it was a conflict of interest for the Council to hire someone to make legal decisions on behalf of the city.

“I think our charter should be changed to reflect that it’s a job for the City Manager to hire and fire our Judge,” Yost said. “Some of you may not agree with me, but it’s time for us to make some tough decisions, it’s time for us to work for the people, that’s why we’re up here. It’s time for us to review our policies and our charter, so that this Council is always held responsible for their conduct and their activities while they serve this great city.”

Councilman Sonny Vickers called Yost’s request into question because the items were already discussed at the retreat.

“We just had a retreat, and both of these items that the councilman is requesting to be put onto the agenda, is undermining what we do at our retreat,” Vickers said. “You didn’t get no traction on them at the retreat, I wanted those, but now,

 you’re just one council person going to the mayor, the city attorney, and manager and say that this is what you want.”

“This just undermines the procedure that we’ve been using for years,” Vickers said.

Councilman James Wright said that he was not totally against what Yost proposed, but he recommended the council consider the work that council members put into their positions when not sitting in their seats.

“You can’t tell me a time when one of my constituents called me, and I did not respond. You don’t hear that,” Wright said. “If we could figure out a way to count the time that we are are working when we are not in this seat because this is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s what I do for my community. I am for it, but I think we need to count the time we’re working outside of the meetings. How do you suppose we do that?”

“I agree with the councilman 100 percent,” Yost replied. He explained that it is the council’s responsibility to work more than just the twice a month meetings. Yost brought the items back up because he wanted to discuss them with his fellow council members, even if they “receive a one to six vote against.”

“Let me make this clear. The people of district six elected me to represent them and to have every right forwarded to me as a councilman, and one of those rights is to put anything that I feel is necessary on the agenda for this council to consider,” Yost said. “It’s time for this council to get their head out of the sand and to address issues that are important to this council and this community.”

Yost continued, “I will live up to the oath that I just took a month ago to represent this community and these people. When I feel that Robert Yost doesn’t do that any longer, you will have my letter of resignation. I will step down from this council and be a good citizen to the people of district six, so this will be an item because I have that right to place it on the agenda.”

The items Yost requested were not brought forward for a vote Thursday, but still may be considered for action at a future meeting.

Before the City Council’s discussion, the council unanimously approved three agenda items:

 * To amend the construction services and management contract for the Force Main Project. “There are two amendments  — one is for the services during construction, that’s usually the bidding documents, it’s a ton of man hours, the record keeping, the following up on questions from the contractors,” said Director of Utilities Henry Hicks. “And the Construction Management has got to keep all of the records, they’ve got to interview the workers three times, and they have to give us the paper work for the reimbursement on the loan. So it’s a lot of paperwork and a lot of field work.” Council approved the Parsons Contract Amendment for Engineering Services during construction for $1.13 million, and the Construction Management contract for $1.95 million.

• The council also approved a resolution to authorize an investment regarding the Georgia Fund I, which is a local government investment pool. “The City contributes to the pool on a monthly basis via the sales tax collected by the Georgia Department of Revenue,” city documents state. “The sales tax collection is wired to the City’s investment account and begins to earn interest immediately.”

• The last item the council approved was an application for the Georgia Department of Transportation enhancement GATEway grant program. If approved, this grant offers the city a maximum of $50,000 to invest in plant materials for proposed gateway planned to be installed on North Valdosta Road.

Valdosta will have to fund the gateway signs, and the proposed surrounding plants will be azaleas.

The Valdosta City Council adjourned their meeting Thursday night to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters, but did not take a vote. They reconvened to adjourn their meeting for the night. Their next scheduled meeting is a Tuesday night work session on March 4, at 5:30 p.m.

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