‘Lame duck’ mayoral appointments have commissioners crying foul

Mayor+pro+tem+Al+Tillman+takes+his+seat+at+the+start+of+Macon-Bibb+Commission+committee+meetings+Tuesday+morning.+

Liz Fabian

Mayor pro tem Al Tillman takes his seat at the start of Macon-Bibb Commission committee meetings Tuesday morning.

As nominees for several Macon-Bibb County boards sat waiting in Tuesday’s committee meeting, Mayor Robert Reichert appeared blindsided by a proposed moratorium on administrative appointments.

“I’m a little taken aback. That’s OK. I try to dance on marbles,” Reichert told commissioners.

Mayor pro tem Al Tillman said he along with other commissioners feel the mayor is leaving them out of the nominating process.

“Table all appointments until we have further discussions,” Tillman suggested. “If we’re not going to be part of the process I just don’t think we need to go forward.”

Commissioner Valerie Wynn agreed.

“This is nothing to do with the people here on this list today. We need to look at new faces,” Wynn said during the Economic & Community Development committee.

Commissioner Elaine Lucas, who chairs the committee, mentioned there have been ongoing discussions for years about commissioners having greater input.

County Manager Keith Moffett said in the last six months the administration has taken commissioners’ suggestions to look for new, younger faces and graduates of Leadership Macon to fill vacancies.

At least four of the five new appointments presented Tuesday had been through the Leadership Macon Program.

Commissioner Larry Schlesinger pointed out that half of the recommendations were for reappointing members of the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Board, Civil Service Board and Retirement Board.

“I think the mayor in the past has said if you have suggestions pass them on to him,” Schlesinger said. “We’ve just got to keep these committees moving forward and thriving.”

Lucas suggested that commissioners work together with local state legislators to make changes in the county charter.

“The charter gives just about absolute authority to the mayor,” Lucas said. “We have to be strong enough to go to the legislative delegation.”

After listening to commissioners discuss a moratorium, the mayor reiterated that he has been open to receiving suggestions.

“Don’t let my silence indicate acquiescence or agreement,” Reichert said. “I feel very strongly about these issues. This committee is not the place to talk about the charter. Maybe you don’t like the idea of only (voting) yes or no.”

As the committee decided to move forward with voting on the nominations, Lucas turned to speak to the 10 potential appointees: “Y’all don’t take any of this personally.”

The committee ultimately approved all 10 appointments:  Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful – Paul Bronson,  with Jean Bragg and Martha Carter being reappointed; Regional Two Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Advisory Board – Grace Guyton; Urban Development Authority – Dr. Charles W. Callender; Bibb County Civil Service Board – Donald E. Banks Jr.  was reappointed; Retirement Board for Macon Pension and Retirement Plan – Narender Bhardwaj and Charlotte Woody both were reappointed; Fort Hawkins Board – Micheal Jamison Jr.; River Edge Behavioral Health Community Service Board – Monica Swayne.

Bronson, Guyton, Swayne and Jamison all came through Leadership Macon, Reichert said.

Tillman said he had no immediate plans to vote against these appointments when full coummission approval is required at next Tuesday’s meeting, but has concerns about other contracts the mayor is working to finalize in the final months before Reichert leaves office in January.

After qualifying for county offices ended Friday, the mayor and mayor pro tem agreed in a series of texts to meet to discuss appointments and contracts after Tuesday’s slate of meetings. Tillman feels the mayor’s list of nominees breaks a pledge to work together.

Reichert told the Center for Collaborative Journalism: “I certainly did not understand our text exchange to indicate a moratorium on appointments. This is something that we’ve talked about for years that they wanted more input. I’ve tried to welcome suggestions and recommendations but not cede my authority.”

Mayor and commissioners began the day thinking the somewhat light committee agendas would mean shorter meetings, but other items such as a report from the Urban Development Authority led to a longer debate about funding priorities and plans for Rosa Parks Square, which resulted in plans for a future work session.

“It’s fun being a lame duck and I’m going to learn how to fly,” Reichert said during another lengthy discussion concerning the need for a new agreement with the Industrial Authority to define its role at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport.

At the conclusion of the meetings, Tillman said at least half the commission had raised concerns to him about lack of input on the mayor’s appointments. He’s worried the new mayor will take office and try to undo all these appointments and contracts, such as a proposed new agreement with Advanced Disposal. The current contract expires at the end of the year.

“If the mayor thinks he’s a lame duck, and he is, and if he’s going to act like a renegade, there’s going to be a problem,” Tillman said. “The business of Macon-Bibb must go on but you’re appointing for the next five years and that’s not fair to the new or next administration.”

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-3091-2976 or [email protected]