Advanced Search

6-1-05 Barrow Citizens Organizing and Challenging BOC Procedure

ATHENS Banner-Herald: While Garrison said he has no problem with feedback from residents, he doesn't necessarily agree with the method residents chose to bring up their problems - in a public forum. Concerned residents can always contact Garrison in his office and discuss any concerns, he said.


May 30, 2005


Barrow Citizens Organizing and Challenging BOC Procedure


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.


Upon my return from a recent 2 week trip to Greece and Turkey, I was not too surprised to see that the new Chairman and BOC majority in Barrow County are being challenged with their policies regarding agendas and open meetings.   For sometime, letters to the Editor and reports of newspapers have shown considerable dissatisfaction with the lack of public input on Barrow decisions.  Some have called the current officials arrogant and dictatorial.


AVOC has had some contact by persons in Barrow County about some of these issues and similar issues discussed in past AVOC articles on the Oconee County Agenda changes (Consent Agenda at Regular meeting for important items) and frequent Executive Sessions. 


Oconee County Chairman Melvin Davis and Barrow’s Doug Garrison are management retirees from the Georgia Extension Service.  They have been used to a different type of governance and politics.   Both seem to want to handle things in “private”.  That statement has been heard by Oconee Citizens and it was highlighted in a quote of Chairman Garrison in the Athens Banner-Herald article of May 27.


Welcome to the real world of local politics and governments.  Many of the Oconee Complaints in recent years are similar to the complaints now in Barrow.   BOC meetings are not for “rubber stamping”.   It is where county business is conducted in public.


Citizen groups and newspapers need to stay on top of the situation in both Barrow and Oconee Counties.  Without the light of real public discussion, the public’s business can suffer.   Mistakes can be made long before the public becomes aware of it.


SEE:  3-3-05 Barrow & Oconee Counties Have Similar Issues?

5-15-05 Some Barrow Residents Oppose and Some Support SPLOST

4-6-05 Oconee County- Jail, Consultants, Egos and Taxes

4-6-05 Oconee Issues Keep “Slipping” and “Sliding” Through Below Radar


NOTE:  (See GDP story below) The Barrow County News carried a similar report on Sunday, May 29, 2005.

The Gwinnett Daily Post



May 25, 2005


Residents Criticize Barrow BOC


By Arielle Kass


WINDER — Barrow County residents spoke out against their commissioners Tuesday, drawing applause and a standing ovation from the attendees in the packed commission meeting room.

Attorney Bill Healan, speaking on behalf of himself and resident Patty Nocera, chided commissioners for their lack of conversation before a vote, for failing to vote before going into executive session and for making it difficult for county residents to participate in government.

“The agenda process works against the citizens of Barrow County,” Healan said to applause. “The process was created to stifle any sort of response from citizens. ... You do our business and you don’t include us.”

Healan, who was threatened with arrest after he spoke up at the last county commission meeting and was not on the agenda, said the county has been holding illegal meetings by failing to vote before going into executive session, and has conducted the county’s business in secret. He said he intended only to comment about his opposition to the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which will be on the ballot in June, but began to dig deeper when he was denied the opportunity to speak last meeting.

Two citizens groups have formed in the county, Healan said, to ensure that changes are made in the way the government operates.

“We’re going to insist that these things be rectified,” he said. “We’re simply going to keep after them. The system here is anti-citizen.”

Commission Chairman Doug Garrison said he was disappointed in Healan’s characterization of the county’s government, but that he will address the points he made. Commissioners will discuss amending the process to get on the agenda — currently, requests must be made by noon on the Friday before a meeting, and the contents of the agenda are not available until after it has been set — and will review the open meetings laws.

District 6 Commissioner Ben Hendrix said he welcomed Healan’s comments and would make changes if necessary.

“I think it’s very healthy to have this kind of forum,” Hendrix said. “I welcome comments made by the citizens.”…….

The Athens Banner-Herald



May 27, 2005


An earful in Barrow    - Citizen outcry


WINDER - Bill Healan tried to address Barrow County commissioners two weeks ago, ........

When Healan returned Tuesday, he followed the requirements, got a slot on the board's agenda and then attacked the procedure ........."The agenda process that you have works against the citizens of Barrow County," said Healan, a Winder attorney. "You have to get on the agenda before you know what the agenda is. That process is obviously created ... to stifle any sort of response from your citizens." ………..

Garrison admits commissioners didn't vote to close some meetings, …….

While Garrison said he has no problem with feedback from residents, he doesn't necessarily agree with the method residents chose to bring up their problems - in a public forum. Concerned residents can always contact Garrison in his office and discuss any concerns, he said.

As for the procedure residents must follow to add an item to meeting agendas, Garrison said he will review the current requirements. The prerequisites, he added, were in place when he took office last year.

"I think that's a valid point he's making," Garrison said of Healan.

Residents in the audience were obviously elated with Healan's remarks. ……..

At least two citizen groups are organized and working to change the government in Barrow County - Barrow Vision and Barrow County Citizens Watch. Members' and residents' concerns range from a proposal to build a new jail near Winder to the dissolution of the county marshal's office. …….

Healan's speech Tuesday was not the first time he has tried to address commissioners this month. Healan tried to talk at the commission's May 10 meeting ……..but Garrison would not let Healan address the board because he was not on the agenda.

"I came out here just to bitch about the sales tax and you wouldn't let me do that," Healan said. "So then I started digging and found……….