Former Commissioner Lee Hearn delivers payback
Many of the meetings of the pre-2013 Fayette County Commission came with negative comments accusing the three outgoing board members with a number of improprieties and a lack of transparency.
Now it’s payback time.
Former Commissioner Lee Hearn fired back March 14, leveling a number of volleys at the “new” board and especially at Chairman Steve Brown. Among those was the proposal that some in the county were drinking “Brown Kool-Aid.”
Hearn in a very lengthy statement which he read in its entirety without interruption noted a number of issues pertaining to his view of some of the actions by Brown and other commissioners. Hearn’s comments are contained in a letter to the editor on Page A5.
A number of commissioners before the meeting ended gave their responses to Hearn’s comments.
Hearn at the outset of his remarks noted a recent conversation he had with County Administrator Steve Rapson in which Rapson asked him why he came to commission meetings to complain about board actions.
“... I decided that the reason I keep coming back is to hopefully convince four of the commissioners that they are being given some very bad advice by the chairman. After spending two long years of listening to his divisiveness, I think that I have a pretty good feel for what he is trying to achieve before the guys catch on to his antics,” Hearn said.
Hearn said a friend told him the problem with his approach at commission meetings could be perceived as sour grapes. He said the “new” board continues to harp on how they want all their actions to be transparent and above reproach, but contended that some in the community are drinking the “Brown Kool-Aid.”
Hearn went on to say that Brown no longer has former County Administrator Jack Krakeel to berate or attorney Scott Bennett to mistrust.
“You now have three commissioners who are willing to follow you anywhere that you want to lead them, a big ‘budget guru’ county administrator who you personally selected and chose and a new interim county attorney who has no ethical problem with representing two opposing parties on the same (Local Option Sales Tax) distribution tax issue,” Hearn said.
Hearn went on to make a number of statements on the LOST issue, comparing the actions of the old and new boards. He said that while the current board did not conduct public meetings on LOST, commissioners did have public meetings on the stormwater utility even though those revenues are small in comparison to sales tax revenues.
Hearn said county staff prior to Dec. 31 concluded that the county’s share of LOST revenues should be 57 percent rather than decrease to the 48.5 percent share the county will see in the next five years, an amount agreed to by commissioners in negotiations with the municipalities. That difference, said Hearn, would amount to $14.5 million in additional county revenues.
“This $14.5 million gift is the result of a deal that the chairman made with his buddy (Fayetteville Mayor Greg Clifton). There was no reason for the cities to negotiate honestly with the county and the previous board because they had already been promised by Mr. Brown that he could deliver the votes to give the cities whatever they wanted. Of course, in return for their support of his candidates last fall it only cost the taxpayers in the unincorporated area of the county 30 pieces of silver or $14.5 million in today’s currency,” Hearn said.
Hearn continued, chastising the commission for “ousting” Fayette County Fire and Emergency Services Director Allen McCullough.
Mayor Clifton, who was present at the meeting, rebutted Hearn’s remarks during public comments. Clifton said Brown did not deserve Hearn’s criticism, adding that the cities agreed to the LOST revenue negotiated settlement rather than having the matter resolved in court.
Rapson in the administrative report said some of Hearn’s comments were extremely misleading.
“Saying $14.5 million doesn’t make it so,” Rapson said.
Brown also weighed in on Hearn’s extended comments. Brown said both the county and the cities “gave something” during the recent LOST negotiations.
And during commissioners’ comments, Commissioner Charles Oddo in a statement that appeared to be one intended with some humor as evidenced by a few chuckles from the audience, said, “With all due respect to Commissioner Brown, I wouldn’t follow him anywhere.”
Commissioner Allen McCarty followed, saying, “We all have our own minds.”