This just parallels SO MUCH to the school board attorney/county attorney controversy….from today’s Times-Georgian:

Councilmen blast city for Bearden payments
by John P. Boan/Times-Georgian
Two Carrollton City Council members are criticizing the city for paying Rep. Tim Bearden for consulting work without a formal contract.

Councilmen Gerald Byrd and Peter Balega released a joint statement Thursday saying they were “shocked” by the monthly amount of city funds paid to Bearden, R-Villa Rica. They said in the statement they were “unaware of any paid services rendered (to the City) during the dates stated on the checks.” The statement appears in a letter from local attorney Gary Bunch, who is representing both councilmen on the matter.

Bearden has been retained as a consultant for the city of Carrollton since late 2005, during which time he has been paid nearly $100,000.

According to a letter from Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner that was published in the Sunday, June 21, issue of the Times-Georgian, the relationship between Bearden and the city began in the fall of 2005, when he was hired “to facilitate an alliance between our police department and the community.” From October of that year to the present, Bearden has received a monthly payment of $2,100 paid out of the city’s budgetary line item marked “general administration, purchased/contract services.”

Through May 7 of this year, he had received a total of $92,400.

While the council knew of Bearden’s relationship with the city — Garner acknowledged it at a meeting in June 2006 — both Byrd and Balega say it was neither openly discussed nor approved at any council meeting.

Bunch’s letter claims “a plethora of problems exists with the contract,” including the fact that it is not in writing and “there are no verifiable job duties for Representative Bearden, nor verification of any alleged work performed by Representative Bearden.”

The statement from Byrd and Balega concludes by saying, “We feel the best government policy is to be open and honest with ALL public monies, with everything documented.”

But Garner, City Manager Casey Coleman and City Attorney Chuck Conerly contend that the relationship with Bearden is no different than that between the city and the other 300-plus full-time employees on the city’s payroll.

“The city has 300 and some employees, and I’m not aware of a written contract with any of them,” Conerly said. “Georgia is an at-will employer. Most businesses, including the city of Carrollton, don’t have written contracts with their employees.”

“I don’t know, quite frankly, that we’ve ever put a consultant on contract,” Coleman said. “Usually it’s just ‘advise me on this and give me a report,’ and if you did the work you get paid.”

He did say that the only other verbal contracts or agreements the city had on record was with Keep Carroll Beautiful, the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and Avery Environmental, the company in charge of collecting recyclables in the city. None of these three act solely as a consultant in the same capacity of Bearden.

Coleman said that while there is a description of the job requirements for all the full-time city employees, no such written description exists for the tasks Bearden was hired to perform.

In terms of the work Bearden has completed since being hired nearly four years ago, the published letter from Garner addresses several projects in which he has played a role, including the Police Department’s “Save a Life … Stop on Red” campaign, the annual Toys for Tots drive and the “Fans for Seniors” program aimed at helping the elderly keep cool during the summer. Garner said Bearden is also involved in sensitive police issues that must remain classified. A former police officer, Bearden has 15 years of experience in law enforcement and formerly served as a motorcycle officer in Douglasville.

While Conerly conceded that a written contract with Bearden and written accounts of the work he’s performed might alleviate public concerns about his relationship to the city, it doesn’t make sense to single him out simply because he is a state lawmaker.

“It’s possible it would give people more comfort but at the same time, I don’t know why we would treat that relationship differently just because he’s a state representative,” Conerly said.

Garner said that he doesn’t micromanage the day-to-day workings of the city, instead leaving that up to Coleman. He said there are certain things he pays close attention to, but other matters, such as the hiring of consultants like Bearden, he has little hand in.

“I have some benchmarks I look for. I tell [Coleman] we’re not going to raise taxes, and we haven’t. I want a healthy cash reserve. We have built that to $6.5 million. [Coleman] has developed the best water system in the Southeast,” Garner said. “As long as those benchmarks are met, I don’t give a gosh-darn hoot how he manages everything else.”

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