March 3, 2021

Chairman Boone’s response (Part 3)

Chairman Boone’s continued response:

Newly elected Commissioners are required to attend a training conference before taking office that is put on by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, (ACCG) at the UGA  Conference Center in Athens.

ACCG also offers a Certification Training Program for incumbents that is optional and not mandatory.

I received my certification in 2006, and I support all Commissioners attending the necessary classes to obtain their certification.

A certified Board is looked upon as respected badge, somewhat comparable to an accredited agency.

ACCG also makes money teaching these classes just like a University or College does, therefore they strongly encourage continuing education after a certification is obtained. The costs for these classes have increased exponentially each year since I took office in 2013.

The most popular locations to hold these conferences are at five star luxury resorts on Lake Lanier Island, Savannah/Tybee Island, Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island.

These locations are strategic, and lodging costs at these locations average between $200 to $225 per night. When you include meals, mileage and parking these trips average between $2000 to $2400 each.

As Chairman, I receive many invitations to attend  different conferences each year at these same and other luxury locations. I could stay gone all the time, justify the trip and charge it to the taxpayers.

Since taking office, I have never attended any meetings, classes or conferences where I could not drive to and from to keep from lodging overnight at costs to taxpayers.

Managing a budget year after year with declining revenues, increasing costs, and having to explain to employees there is no surplus of money in the general fund, it would have been purely hypocritical for me to travel unnecessarily.

ACCG has an annual convention at Savannah/Tybee Island in April of each year. I have never been to the convention personally, but some who have attended describe it as a “Big Party.”

My opponent attended the convention in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. The total cost for the April 2018 trip was $2358.88.

After the trip, I expressed concerns to my opponent about the costs involved, her certification was achieved, and tried to discourage her from any further unnecessary travel.

She rebuffed my suggestion and indicated that she had a “right” to travel and was going to continue.

As Chairman, I am to approve all travel expenses for employees per County Policy, however this did not apply to the Commissioners. I had no authority to prohibit any Commissioner from excessive travel expenses.

I discussed the situation with other Commissioners, and the decision was made to draft a policy governing Commissioners travel to be put on the June 26, 2018 meeting agenda.

The agenda item regarding the travel policy was discussed, then a motion and vote was called. The policy was adopted 3-2 with my opponent and the former District 5 Commissioner voting against it.

It is ironic that the former District 5 Commissioner voted against this policy, when the focal point of his whole 2014 campaign against the incumbent was for the same reasons.

All Commissioners should lead by example, and it is sad that a policy had to be implemented to govern ourselves.

In 2019, a vacant seat was announced on the ACCG District 4 Board of Managers, and applications were being accepted. This is the same seat that was once held by the former District 5 Commissioner prior to 2015.

The next announcement I received was that my opponent was the new Board member for ACCG District 4.

After talking to the other Commissioners, nobody was aware that she had even applied for the seat. Professional courtesy should dictate that you should at least notify your Board members of your intentions.

This seat enabled her to travel once again, back to the luxury resorts for Board meetings at taxpayer expense.

My opponent has touted this position and hours in her short resume, but failed to include the travel costs of $15,609.87 to the taxpayers of Heard County.

No amount of hours accrued at ACCG classes makes you “Uniquely Qualified” as a candidate, and are not recognized by any institute of higher learning.

Nonetheless, this should clearly demonstrate where my opponent’s priorities have been the last 5 years and will continue to be.

If elected, she will stay gone all the time, and I don’t even want to think about what the annual travel costs will be. How can you expect to be “HEARD” if her priority is not Heard?

Lee Boone, Chairman

Heard County Board of Commissioners

 

*PAID POLITICAL AD*

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