Brown: Chairman Smith misleads on ties with developer-driven bank, mass transit
Several key points were made at the last candidates’ forum that distinguishes me from the incumbent Jack Smith. I will offer a few of those points in this correspondence. Video clips from the forum are available on my campaign website at www.sb4faycom.com.
Smith’s theme for the entire forum was something akin to “Steve Brown is just playing with your emotions.” I really do not think that is going to work. So many people are angry at the West Fayetteville Bypass he chose to build, the pork-filled SPLOST he tried to convince us to vote for and his votes in favor of bringing mass transit into Fayette County that the “playing on your emotions” argument probably will not pass.
The incumbent Smith made a point that I refuted which was his bank board position with the Bank of Georgia and their developer-friendly lending policies would not conflict with his county commissioner position where he votes on all kinds of land use and rezoning issues.
Smith told the gentleman asking the question that the Bank of Georgia did most of its lending “outside Fayette County.” However, the media archives are full of stories contradicting Smith’s claim.
Here is what the AJC had to say, “Like many of its peers, Bank of Georgia lent heavily to home builders and developers during the boom years, especially in Fayette and Coweta counties,” (AJC, Aug. 29, 2009). The AJC also reported the alarming news that “more than 80 percent of the bank’s total loan portfolio” was in loans to home builders and developers.
Commissioner Smith tried to cover his tracks by saying he would excuse himself from the portions of bank board meetings when there was a conflict of interest. The problem with that is neither the public nor the news media is allowed in the private Bank of Georgia board meetings.
I know how this works firsthand from when the Peachtree City government was trying to obtain records from Peachtree National Bank after finding out three of the Development Authority members who were pumping under-the-table loans into authority accounts were also on the board of Peachtree National Bank. The bank tried to block the local government’s every move.
Of course, there has not been a lot of development lending this year or last with the bad economy, but do we really want commission members in such conflicting positions when things crank back up? Almost every director on that bank’s board has some kind of link to land speculation, development or home construction.
Another issue with the incumbent Jack Smith is his voting in favor of mass transit buses and rail for Fayette County. Publicly he had always claimed to oppose mass transit in Fayette County. Common sense would dictate if you adamantly opposed something for your county that you would be expected not to vote in favor of it. An audience member asked Smith if he would vote the same way given another chance and he replied he “would vote the exact same way.”
Smith went on to explain how flawed the regional mass transit plan was and the person who asked the question followed-up by asking, “So you voted ‘yes?’” Smith attempted to make it look like he did not vote on anything related to Fayette County by saying, “I voted for the plan for metro Atlanta.”
Of course, the Fayette County bus routes, like the one from Riverdale to Fayetteville, and the rail routes are part of the “plan for metro Atlanta” Smith voted for every time it was up for a vote.
Another section where I really disagreed with the incumbent Jack Smith is how they handle high-ranking contract employees. At the forum, Smith said, “There are two people in the county who are contractual employees. The county attorney is one and the county manager is the other one.” He followed with, “That those two positions are the two that are independent, in effect, of the rest of the governing structure”
The distress signal was pulled when Smith admitted that the county manager’s contract read that he would not receive any type of formal performance review unless he, the county manager, asked for one. What possible reason would justify Smith setting up this type of contractual arrangement for the county manager?
If all of the county employees are subject to annual review then, the county manager should be also. The county manager, Jack Krakeel, is a nice guy, but why does he receive such special treatment? How are the citizens to trust such a process where there is no accountability for the highest ranking non-elected official in the county?
Another person from the audience said the county’s in-house attorney Scott Bennett has in his contract that he receive a performance review every year, but a review has never been performed. Commissioner Smith acknowledged what the woman was saying was true. Smith also said his colleagues on the County Board of Commissioners appointed him the person to do the evaluations.
Commissioner Smith’s nonchalant attitude toward creating official documentation and performance review is a serious matter. When accountability is lost, things begin to breakdown, scandals ensue.
One of the main things the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and our state agency criticized Smith’s Bank of Georgia Board of Directors for was “operating with a board of directors (‘Board’) whose supervision over and direction to the management of the Bank has not been adequate.”
The FDIC also criticized the bank for “operating with inadequate management whose policies and practices are detrimental to the Bank and jeopardize the safety of its deposits.” Another in the list of critical points was “operating with an ineffective loan review program.”
Honestly, do we want the same failure that happened at the Bank of Georgia to occur in our county government using the same type of weak policies?
I will serve you conflict-free, giving all employees the same fair treatment, demanding accountability at all levels. I oppose mass transit in Fayette County and I will move to terminate the wasteful West Fayetteville Bypass.
Early voting starts June 7, [voting at] PTC/Tyrone libraries starts July 12, Election Day is July 20. I would appreciate your vote. Special thanks to all who have served in our Armed Forces!
You can read the FDIC’s Order To Cease And Desist for Jack Smith’s bank Board of Directors at www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/enforcement/2009-06-06.pdf.
Steve Brown, candidate
Post 4, County Commission
Peachtree City, Ga.