VALDOSTA -- It came down to a 6-0 vote as it was officially decided Thursday that Valdosta City councilmen are now prohibited from entering contracts with the city.
Per the new ordinance, the following is prohibited to councilmembers: " ... the sale of property or to provide any service, whether professional, administrative, or otherwise, or for the purchase of any goods, supplies or equipment where the member of the governing authority has a pecuniary interest in the project or the contracting business entity, including an interest as an owner, subcontractor under a contract, or as one retained for services of any kind under a project or contract."
As of presstime Wednesday, the councilmembers' comments indicated division in the ranks. The Thursday vote, however, sent a clear message as to where the council stands on the matter. All councilmen voted in favor of the request except Councilman Richard Hill, who abstained from voting.
"I don't think enough consideration has been given to this issue," Hill said. "We have not discussed how this will affect others who may want to run for public office."
Hill added that "the catch-pool here for people that can do this job is very small."
Also during the discussion, City Attorney George Talley cited the state law governing this type of situation at the request of Councilman Bunnis Williams. He then clarified the fact that the issue is not a legal one but rather one of conduct.
"It doesn't matter if you pass it now or not, it will still be legal under state law," Talley said. "What you're deciding here is a code of conduct ... how you want to do businesses."
Councilman Sonny Vickers, originator of the changes, said he was merely trying to address an issue that has been "talked about on council for the past 15-years."
Councilmen David Sumner and Levy Rentz both said the new ordinance is the right thing to do at the right time.
During the citizens to be heard portion of the meeting, the Rev. Floyd Rose spoke in favor of the changed ordinance and also addressed the council about Rentz's qualifications to be on council.
"Based on the information provided to me by the city, Councilman Rentz does not live in Valdosta ... he lives in Darien," Rose said. "I just want to make sure that if I decide to run for one of these seats that I will be treated with the same respect."
Rose said he has no personal problem with Rentz but wants a clarification: If he has a separate home outside of Valdosta and moves to one of the seven homes he owns inside Valdosta to run for office, will he be barred from running for public office?
Talley said according to the city charter, a councilman is not allowed to have a permanent residence outside the district in which they serve. However, Talley continued, councilmen can spend time at a second home outside the district and receive mail wherever they wish as long as their permanent address is listed within the district.
When addressed directly by Rose, Rentz said the information Rose was given had not been updated and that his Darien phone number was for emergencies only.
"My wife and I have a home in Darien, and at the end of my term, when I retire, that will become my permanent residence," Rentz said.
He said the Darien address is his second home to his 2010 LaSalle Drive address in Valdosta, where he receives his mail and majority of other bills.
To contact reporter T.S. Rose, please call 244-3400, ext. 245.
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