The need for better communication between the six members of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors dominated the organization’s June 11 meeting.
Chairman Sam Dickson brought up the subject, which turned into nearly an hour-long debate. Dickson stressed the need for the board to work together and be careful of allegations it makes in local newspapers, addressing many concerns Pine Creek Supervisor Bob Martin has made publically in recent weeks. In turn, Martin hammered home the point that he just wants the same information on county topics to be shared with all supervisors and not just a select few.
“We are hearing around the community and in the papers that the six of us are not working well together and that some are getting more information than others,” Dickson said. “And we just want to try to clear the air now and bring up some of the things that may have been misquoted and sit down and see if we can’t get on a pattern of where we are working together…In order to keep our county moving forward, we don’t need to be wasting time explaining certain things that probably didn’t need to be explained to start with.”
For instance, Dickson said he was recently approached by a television reporter wanting an interview. The process took three hours, he said.
Addressing recent articles in The Carroll News, Dickson wanted to talk about a retreat supervisors held in December of 2011 in Christiansburg. Martin has referred to that event as a secret meeting. Dickson explained that the three sitting board members thought it would be a good idea to meet with the three incoming supervisors before they were sworn in the following month to give them information and bring them up to speed on current board matters. Dickson said Christiansburg was chosen for various reasons, including eliminating local distractions.
“Normally a retreat such as this - the school does it a lot - you don’t have your retreat in the same town you are working in,” Dickson said. “You just tend to business. There is a nominal cost to it I guess.”
Dickson said he got the idea from his son’s football playing days at Carroll County when then-head coach Dave Haynie set up a weeklong preseason camp for the football team.
“That probably wasn’t the most pleasant thing, but by the end of the week if you went in there and jumped on one of them you were probably going to have to jump on all of them. They bonded, and they still have that bond,” Dickson said. “We were hoping the same thing would happen with this board, that we might bond. It wasn’t a secret that we did anything and it definitely was not illegal.”
Dickson said he and fellow supervisor David Hutchins attended the retreat, while supervisor Dr. Tom Littrell agreed to stay home. Dickson said the board didn’t know Martin and fellow incoming supervisor Joshua Hendrick weren’t in favor of the location or they would have changed it, but they weren’t told.
“So there is a problem where a misunderstanding, where maybe they didn’t realize or think they could talk to us and say, ‘Hey, we are totally against this, we don’t want to go down there and spend the county’s money and we don’t want to have this.’ So that kind of helped start the problem because it came out later on,” Dickson said. “I am sure you read the newspaper article that came out in The Carroll News where we were being dragged over the coals for doing that when we were trying to do a good thing. That was part of our discussions of where we need to get together better and work better on this.”
Dickson said there were other concerns that came up during the budget season, so the board nominated supervisors Phil McCraw and Littrell to form a budget committee. As part of the budget committee, McCraw was interviewed by The Carroll News, which Dickson said he felt was fine.
“He did ask me as chairman if that would be alright and I had no problem with it. He did his own thing but he had more information than I had because he was on the committee,” Dickson said. “So naturally he said things probably none of us knew little about, but we put our trust (in him). As a matter of fact, Mr. Martin nominated them both and it was a unanimous vote for them to work on it. So it wasn’t anything trying to keep from anybody, trying to hide anything.”
Dickson has also addressed accusations previously that the county made a $1.6 million offer on Kentucky Derby buildings in a 30-minute decision. In truth, Carroll worked on those buildings for over two years before eventually working out a lease price with the Carroll County IDA.
“It wasn’t a quick decision and the ones of us that came back can guarantee we don’t make quick decisions to spend the county’s $1.6 million,” Dickson said. “We labor over everything that is spent.”
Attack of the 800-Pound Gorilla
Realizing he was the cause of Dickson’s opening, Martin responded with his own feelings.
“Mr. Chairman, I am the 800-pound gorilla in the room and I’ve got some comments. It’s hard to be a part of a group when you’ve never been a part of the group. And everything I’ve stated to the press I still stand by,” Martin said. “It is not out of reason for any supervisor to be afforded basic information about we’re standing good for a $1.6 million offer to Kentucky Derby.”
Martin said he shouldn’t have to read about such an offer in the paper.
“I just don’t think it’s too much to ask that if you want me to vote $1.6 million to buy the Kentucky Derby buildings and obligate the Pine Creek citizens…that it’s not too much to ask for somebody to turn around and give me two sentences (updating the situation). That’s all I need.”
Martin said something is also wrong when he gets the information on the budget in May. He said the county has enough staff that it could have sent him a preliminary report on the budget well before then.
“I want to get along with everybody but what’s going on is not right,” Martin said.
Martin said he just wants the county run in a businesslike manner.
“But if you want me in the airplane when it lands at Twin County make sure I am in there when it takes off going to Twin County,” Martin said. “And you will never have trouble out of me as long as we put things out on the table and everybody has the stuff. May for a budget? Good golly, Miss Molly, that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
Hendrick said Martin is not the only supervisor with concerns.
“Well, speak your mind,” Martin responded. “You are the other red-headed boy up here, speak.”
Hendrick said he didn’t like the location of the Christiansburg meeting either. He did, however, find it very informative and thought staff did a great job of putting it together.
“What I didn’t like was the location of Christiansburg. I didn’t stay in Christiansburg,” Hendrick said. “I drove back and forth mainly because I didn’t want to spend taxpayer money up there.”
Dickson said that information wasn’t relayed to him, and he asked Hendrick to address him with any concerns in the future. He said he would see that his concerns are addressed.
Martin said he thought Dickson does a great job as chairman. He said he also likes Hutchins and Littrell. He just wants basic information. The Carroll PSA will get $1.3 million from the board of supervisors this year, plus additional charges, Martin said. Even though he’s not on the PSA, for that kind of money he said he deserves to know what the PSA and IDA are doing.
Hendrick said he’s also had concerns about the budget. He asked for budget information in April and never received anything. He didn’t find out the budget committee’s recommendation to fund $1.8 million in extra funding to the school board until a public hearing in April, even though he said the information was presented to Dickson and Hutchins prior to the meeting. Dickson and Hutchins are the chair and vice-chair, Dickson said, and he had faith in the budget committee and staff that they could reach a number that would work for everybody.
McCraw said he didn’t know why Martin nominated him to serve on the budget committee if he didn’t think he could do the job. That has really bothered him, McCraw said, pointing to comments Martin has made about an article in The Carroll News by previous Editor Thomas Lester. After gathering budget information from staff, McCraw said he put together ideas he outlined in the article. He then called Lester, he said, because Lester was friends with McCraw’s daughter and son-in-law.
“I put it together. I worked on it and I worked on it some more. I called Thomas Lester. Why did I call Thomas? Because I had met Thomas at my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding,” McCraw said. “I thought I would call Thomas. My daughter had his cell number. I called Thomas, he came down to my place of business, we went into my office and he interviewed me.”
McCraw said the biggest thing that has bothered him is that Martin made comments that inferred he was not capable of the job.
“That is the way I have taken it and I have had a lot of folks down in Cana say, ‘Phil, why do let him run over you like that? I have never known you to be that way before,’” McCraw said. “And I said, ‘I guess it is just Bob because that is what I have always heard everybody else say.’ And Bob, I’m not dumb.”
Martin said he never said that. McCraw said he did insinuate it, however. Martin denied that accusation as well.
“When you put that in the paper, ‘the article attributed to me,’ and you had made statements to others that I didn’t write it, that’s really bothered me,” McCraw said. “I want to work with you. I want to work with everybody, but I don’t want to pick the newspaper up and see something that insinuates that I am sort of a simpleton.”
Martin continued to deny implying that McCraw was not capable. The two continued the discussion for a while before Dickson asked the board to move on.
Dickson said Martin did send an e-mail to the entire school system’s personnel, but to none of the supervisors. Dickson said the board would like the same courtesy of sharing information that Martin asked for.
“Until the board members and the county administrator’s office want to share information equally we are going to be at this impasse,” Martin said. “I am easy to get along with but I got kicked out of reading mind school a long time ago.”
Dickson said the board has to be accountable. He took issue with the windmill situation being discussed on television when it was a closed-session topic. It could end up costing the county later with a perspective business.
Martin said the first item on the agenda at the Christiansburg meeting was the need to keep things in executive session so potential businesses aren’t run off. But just a couple of months before that, he said the board released information about an industry coming in with 150 jobs prior to the election. He found that to be hypocritical.
Dickson responded that the board didn’t release the name of the company or what type of company it was, however. Martin said he didn’t release the name of the windmill company either.
“We didn’t say what they were going to do,” Dickson replied. “Were they going to make windmills?”
“I thought they were going to do the same thing the board was doing at that point, blow wind like a windmill,” Martin replied.
Hendrick said the $1.6 million authorized by the IDA was an executive session topic as well, but it came out in local papers the following week. Dickson said the IDA made that offer, not supervisors. Hendrick said he’s been told IDA closed session topics can’t be discussed with supervisors, but yet that item was released in newspapers. Hutchins asked Hendrick if he remembered the supervisors voting on the topic in open session. Hendrick said supervisors didn’t vote on the topic.
“I don’t care what people say about me if it’s the truth,” Dickson said. “If I am breaking law after law, I want you to tell (the newspapers).”
Dickson said he didn’t know if the board had made any progress, but he said he thought it had come up with some points to make communications better. He encouraged Martin to call him or e-mail anytime to ask what’s going on. Martin said he should be able to get everything he needs from the county administrator.
“It is not unreasonable to ask the county administrator for basic information or for them to supply that instead of having to call you on everything,” Martin said.
At the end of the discussion, county attorney Jim Cornwell said he’s taken exception to comments Martin has made.
“I have been a county, city or town attorney for 38 years. I presently represent seven jurisdictions,” Cornwell said. “I have never had these issues before that we are having now. If the newspaper prints things Mr. Martin is saying, I want the newspaper to also print I take exception to the issues he has raised concerning me and my duties.”