Bowen makes changes at coroner’s office | The Augusta Chronicle

Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen wants Augusta to trust the coroner’s office again, and he says he’s made the changes that give the office the accountability it never had before.

Mark Bowen took over the Richmond County Coroner’s Office after the arrest of Grover Tuten on theft and other charges.

Bowen said the office made “sweeping changes” in the days after the arrest of his predecessor, Grover Tuten, who was indicted on eight counts of theft and five counts of violation of oath of office. Bowen was his chief deputy coroner.

In order to prevent future abuses, Bowen said, he and his deputy coroners immediately amended the department’s policy on the handling of personal property.

“We have accountability with the property now,” he said. “There’s no way that what happened before can happen again.”

via Bowen makes changes at coroner’s office | The Augusta Chronicle.

14 candidates qualify for Augusta Commission election | The Augusta Chronicle

Fourteen candidates set their sights on five Augusta Com­mission seats during last week’s qualifying for May 20 elections.

Only District 8 Com­mis­sioner Wayne Guil­foyle escaped opposition. The elections in districts 2 and 10 garnered two candidates each, while the District 4 race drew four candidates.

The District 6 race to replace two-term Commis­sion­er Joe Jackson, who is term-limited, attracted five candidates, including a former Republican Party official from the Alleluia Community, Bob Finnegan, and newspaper publisher and activist Ben Hasan.

Also signing up to run in the “swing” district, where blacks and whites are almost evenly distributed, were pastor and radio personality Angela Harden and longtime county government employee Roger Garvin.

If no candidate in a race garners more than 50 percent of votes May 20, a runoff will be held July 22.

via 14 candidates qualify for Augusta Commission election | The Augusta Chronicle.

Bibb County gets big win in border dispute ruling | Local & State |

A Georgia Supreme Court ruling Monday handed Bibb County a big victory in a border dispute with Monroe County.

The Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision in the long-running boundary dispute between Bibb and Monroe counties.

In the unanimous decision, written by Justice Carol Hunstein, the high court is sending the case back to the Fulton County Superior Court after determining that while Secretary of State Brian Kemp may be required by state law to resolve the dispute by deciding where the

boundary lies, he is not required to pick a particular boundary.

via Bibb County gets big win in border dispute ruling | Local & State |

Drivers services head gets new role | Gwinnett Daily Post

A Gwinnett resident will now serve two roles with state government.

Rob Mikell, who is the commissioner of the Department of Driver Services, was recently appointed to the State Employee Benefit Plan Council by Gov. Nathan Deal, he announced Friday.

“I appreciate the opportunity from Gov. Deal to serve on this important Council,” said Mikell, who leads the state agency responsible for driver testing and issuance including motorcycle safety, driver education and driver improvement. “I share a common interest in developing and improving benefit plans which contribute to the quality of life for our state’s workforce.”

The State Employee Benefit Plan Council is composed of State Personnel Board members, state agency management and employees plus a member from the private sector, a press release said, adding that the council is the general policy making entity for the State Health Benefit Plan.

via Drivers services head gets new role | Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gov. Nathan Deal: Medical Devices Company To Create 120 Jobs In Fayette

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Deal: Medical devices company to create 120 jobs in Fayette

German-based Gerresheimer to expand operations in Peachtree City, investing millions

Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that Gerresheimer Peachtree City, LP, a manufacturer of complex drug delivery systems, will expand in Fayette County, creating 120 jobs and investing double-digit millions into the expansion.

“Georgia’s healthcare industry is uniquely poised to help Gerresheimer grow,” said Deal. “This leading global company is taking advantage of an eager, skilled workforce and an advanced life science and healthcare ecosystem. Continue reading

Gov. Deal says Georgia’s environment and jobs linked | Gwinnett Daily Post

Georgia’s economy is linked to the environment, Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday, as he presented an environmental address for Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful.

“It is important to have an environment that is clean and beautiful because that’s what people and businesses want,” Deal said, adding that companies often consider sustainability and the natural environment when choosing where to locate or expand businesses and that green jobs are helping drop the state’s unemployment rate.

“We are a state that is blessed with many things, abundant rainful, very luxurious mountains and forests and great state parks,” Deal told a crowd of more than 1,000 gathered at the Gwinnett Center. “We have a lot to be proud of about our natural beauty.”

While the nonprofit’s annual governor’s address has taken a five-year hiatus, one issue has lingered over the years: water.

Deal said Thursday that the state is once again facing a lawsuit with Florida over water supply, and that he will continue to be vigilant to make sure that Gwinnett receives credit for its efforts to return reclaimed wastewater to Lake Lanier, an endeavor that cost millions and should be a factor in allocating out the resource.

But that body of water is not his only concern. Deal spent time talking about the proposed expansion of the port of Savannah, expressing his disappointment that the president did not include funding for the project.

Georgia plans to keep working, Deal said, with nearly a third of the project’s $652 million budget set aside in state funding.

via Gov. Deal says Georgia’s environment and jobs linked | Gwinnett Daily Post.

Snellville officials offer training on meeting rules | Gwinnett Daily Post

After watching the city council and mayor battle it out in public forums, officials in Snellville are planning to educate themselves on the rules to conducting meetings.

The Snellville Downtown Development Authority, Snellville Tourism and Trade and the Snellville Urban Redevelopment Agency all pitched in a small portions of their budget for an upcoming training class on parliamentary procedures. The event is scheduled for 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday, March 29.

Buddy Scott, the chairman of the Downtown Development Authority, helped organize the event after watching the city government planning retreat end in 12 minutes this year. While some council members had hoped to have Scott mediate the meeting, the discussion broke down with the mayor failing to acknowledge motions from the council members and the council voting to “vacate the chair.”

Scott said he wanted “to give participants of Snellville’s official boards, committees and staff the opportunity to gain knowledge regarding the proper use of Robert’s Rules of Order as it relates to their role and rights in the running of their respective meetings.”

via Snellville officials offer training on meeting rules | Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County could owe $1 million-plus in water damage case |

Gerry and Judy McManus believe Gwinnett County should not allow water running off new road construction to flood across their property, kill trees, wash away fish, and create sinkholes.

Gwinnett County believes otherwise.

In court filings, the county denies damaging the McManuses’ property. And besides, county lawyers argued, the county has the right to send as much water as it wants onto part of the McManuses’ land.

Five years after the McManuses say the damage began, the Georgia Supreme Court has sided with the couple in a lawsuit they filed against the county. The case has not yet gone to trial. But last week’s Supreme Court ruling affirmed a lower court’s interim order requiring the county to stop and repair the damage.

“The county has used taxpayer money to damage and then defend damaging the McManuses’ property for years,” said Matt Reeves, a lawyer representing the couple. “The county is not above the law in honoring private property rights.”

If the McManuses win at trial, the county could be on the hook for more than a million dollars in damages, court costs and repairs — costs the McManuses say could have been avoided if county officials had designed a better drainage system in the first place.

via Gwinnett County could owe $1 million-plus in water damage case |

Meeting maneuvers kept public eyes off projects |

Cobb commissioners knew spending $300 million on a new Atlanta Braves stadium would raise the ire of anti-tax advocates. Paulding airport officials realized their idea to start commercial air service could provoke outrage from residents.

In both cases, government officials took extraordinary steps to keep information from the public until the deals were largely finalized, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found.

Paulding airport authority board members, for example, held a retreat last summer at which they discussed with FAA and other officials the potential of commercial flights coming to the small airfield. They held that meeting 20 miles away in Douglas County.

No public notice was published prior to the meeting, and the airport authority kept the official summary of the discussions private by neglecting to produce minutes for approval until six months later.

And at the time of the retreat, the authority had already quietly entered into a lease with the company trying to commercialize the airport. The minutes from the retreat were not approved and posted to the authority’s website until months after that deal was made public in October.

In Cobb, the four district commissioners first learned details about the Braves move in individual meetings with Commission Chairman Tim Lee and Braves officials, so as to avoid a quorum that would force open those meetings.

Then on Nov. 13, as the public clamored for details about how much the county would spend and how it would pay for the stadium, district commissioners went in pairs to a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce, where they learned about the financing plan from business leaders and Braves officials.

Lee wasn’t present at those sessions, so two commissioners at a time attended without creating a quorum of the five-member board.

The financial deal was made public the next day. It calls for spending $8.6 million a year in county-wide property tax revenue, and a slightly larger amount from a trio of other taxes and fees that will be applied in targeted areas of the county. It will last 30 years.

Hollie Manheimer, an attorney and executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said both cases appear contrary to the Georgia’s Open Meetings Act, which says meetings must be public if “any official business, policy, or public matter of the agency is formulated, presented, discussed or voted upon.”

“The Open Meetings Act in Georgia has always been designed to aid citizen access, not arm public agencies against it,” Manheimer said. “To the extent meetings are moved out of the county, improperly noticed, and improperly recorded, these barriers impede citizen access rights.”

As to the round-robin meetings Cobb commissioners had with business leaders, Manheimer said: “If the … act exists for any purpose, it’s this situation.”

via Meeting maneuvers kept public eyes off projects |

Chatham County candidates qualify for May ballot |

Chatham County public office hopefuls this week secured their positions on the May 20 ballot during the qualifying period for the upcoming non-partisan and general primary elections.

In all, 18 candidates qualified for 12 openings including county coroner, board of elections memberships, judgeships, and school board seats and president.

The non-partisan race for Savannah-Chatham County School Board president, to be elected in May, was the most sought-after position among qualifiers who had from Monday morning through noon Friday to submit their formal intention to run for office.

Sadie C. Brown, Jolene Byrne, Chester A. Ellis, George Seaborough, and David Simons, all of Savannah, will each run for the seat currently occupied by Joe Buck.

Brown is retired educator, Byrne is a college sociology instructor, Ellis is a pastor, Seaborough is a community activist and Simons is a political consultant.

The four open school board positions will be uncontested with only incumbents qualifying between Monday and Friday.

Shawn A. Kachmar, a Savannah attorney and the current school board vice president, qualified to retain his District 4 seat.

Irene G. Hines, a retired educator, of Savannah, qualified to retain the District 5 seat.

Larry Lower, a retired law enforcement official and former security company CEO, of Savannah, qualified to stay in his District 6 seat.

Ruby D. Jones, a retired environmental protection specialist, of Savannah, qualified for the District 8 seat she currently holds.

The other uncontested, non-partisan candidates on the May ballot will be incumbent Records Court judges Tammy Stokes and Claire Cornwell-Williams, both of Savannah.

Meanwhile two of the May 20 primary races for board of elections seats will be contested.

Incumbent Deborah S. Rauers, a Savannah Republican, will face Savannah Republican Joe Vestal in the primary for her seat. Savannah Republicans James Brisson Hall and Marianne Mercer Heimes both qualified for the seat currently occupied by Stan Kaczorowski.

Incumbent Ernestine J. Jones, a Savannah Democrat, qualified for her board of elections seat, and Savannah Democrat Malinda Scott Hodge will run unopposed in the primary for the seat currently held by Monifa Johnson.

via Chatham County candidates qualify for May ballot |