Turmoil and strife continue to plague the county’s assessor board and staff as the new year begins.
Two Madison County board of assessor members resigned this week after the board failed to accept a recommendation made by one of them for a new chief appraiser.
The county has been without a chief appraiser since Dec. 31, when James Flynt left after his two-year contract expired and was not renewed by the county.
Veteran member and former vice-chairman Larry Stewart announced his resignation, effective Feb. 1, at the end of a BOA meeting Monday night, following a vote 3-2 to deny his recommendation of candidate Carey Lamb, Swainsboro, to the board of commissioners for the chief appraiser position. Stewart issued a formal letter of resignation Tuesday morning.
Stewart and board member Bob Fowler voted in favor of Lamb’s recommendation, while David Ragland, Samantha Garland and Jim Escoe voted to deny it.
On Tuesday, Fowler said he planned to follow suit with his own resignation, effective immediately.
Stewart told the audience Monday that he had enjoyed his three and a half years of service on the assessor board.
“It’s been a lot of work and I’ve invested a lot of time into it,” Stewart said, but he added that he felt he could no longer be an effective board member.
“My conscience is free – I’ve done the best I can,” Stewart said.
Stewart told the board he would tender his written resignation to District 2 commissioner, John Pethel, who had appointed him to the BOA, and to new county commission chair Anthony Dove on Tuesday morning. Board members expressed their regret over Stewart’s decision.
Fowler, who joined the assessor board last March, said by phone Tuesday that he felt that it was best for him to leave at this time as well. He said he planned to issue an official letter to District 1 commissioner Stanley Thomas, who appointed him to the BOA, and to chairman Dove, on Wednesday.
“I think the fact that the board has reconfigured itself at this time, I feel it’s best for them to have a new person who can help them with their own agenda,” Fowler stated. “I wish them well.”
Fowler was referring to the appointment of newest board member David Ragland to the chairman’s position Monday night. Former chair Samantha Garland took the vice-chair position formerly held by Stewart. Appraisal staff member Regina Coker, who had resigned her position as board secretary, rescinded her resignation and agreed to stay on in that position.
Fowler said the deciding factor in his resignation was the board’s decision not to accept Lamb’s application.
“I’m put out about the whole thing,” Fowler said, adding that he was disappointed that a “very qualified candidate was not chosen.” Fowler said the board had conducted interviews with Lamb and done a thorough check of his work record and references. “We found them to be exemplary,” Fowler said.
Audience member Marion “Hoss” Cartwright asked Stewart if he would recommend that his replacement be someone from other than District 2, since as of Monday night, there was already another board member from District 2 (Fowler) on the board.
Stewart said he would leave that to the discretion of the BOC.
In a related matter, the board also voted to name appraisal staff member Stacey S. Rubio as the “lead person” in the appraisal office until a new chief appraiser is hired. Chairman Ragland pointed out that Rubio is the only appraiser III on staff. The BOA agreed to have Ragland ask for additional compensation for Rubio at an upcoming county commission meeting. Rubio is to be the appraisal staff’s “go-to person,” in charge of day-to-day management matters, according to the board.
In other business, the BOA discussed the appraisal staff’s newly designated duty to handle requests for homestead exemptions. Tax commissioner Louise Watson designated the tax appraisal office to handle homestead exemption requests, beginning this week, the board said. Watson sent a letter to the appraisal office last week informing them of her decision.
According to county attorney Mike Pruett, it is the tax commissioner’s call to designate whether her office or the appraisal office handles homestead exemptions.
The tax commissioner’s office has traditionally handled homestead exemptions in Madison County in the past, the BOA noted.
“We’ve got an issue here that’s been thrown in our laps,” Ragland stated, adding that he feels that Watson, the appraisal staff and the BOA should have met on the matter first.
Pruett advised the board to let the staff “run with it,” and come back to the board with their needs for additional training and/or staff as they progress.
Several board members, as well as staff members, said they felt at least one additional staff person would be needed to handle the additional work, particularly since the office is short-staffed already, but they also agreed that the tax appraisal office is the more appropriate entity to handle homestead exemption requests.
I am sorry to see Mr.Stewart leaving the board.I think he has done a fine job for the people of Madison County.I know he will be missed by many people here in the county.He has been a man that did his very best for all of us. I hope whoever replaces him will be as open and honest in what they are doing. I wish you the very best sir.
Mr. Fowler and Mr. Stewart are fine people. They both are honest and their integetry is above reproach.
The BOC needs to get behind this,Otherwise you will never get good people willing to accept a nomination to serve on this board. There is some underhanded tatics going on with the Board as it now stands.
Good luck to you both and thank you for your service.
You are both smart, business minded men.MC need more people of your caliber.
if I decided to take position on BOA and if someone I knew or had business/legal/personal friendship with/family ties with would I need to excuse myself and leave room or just not vote on an issue involving their property ?
would there or is there a provision of law or ordinace where can not do that. would hate to not give vote but later another person would not do that also if they knew someone ? any past BOA know answer ?