2005-09-28 / Editorials

Professionalism must prevail at public meetings

The recent implementation of a salary schedule to determine raises for county employees landed the Jenkins County Commissioners in hot water at their Tuesday, Sept. 20, meeting with several employees in attendance voicing their dissatisfaction with the amounts of their pay increases. Also, when county administrator Carol Cates presented the name of an applicant for employment to be voted upon, an open debate on whether or not to hire the individual occurred.

The normal procedure used by most local governments is to discuss personnel issues such as salaries and candidates for employment in executive session with only action votes taking place in the public meeting. Several times county attorney Troy Gay attempted to suggest that executive session was a more appropriate avenue, but he was ignored and the meeting continued gravitating into a combative atmosphere. Attorney Gay finally got up and left the meeting.

We believe the manner in which the meeting was conducted only served to “fan” the fire of an already explosive situation. Some consideration must be given to the sensitivity of these issues and the discussion of them in a public meeting.

Rarely does a newspaper complain of proceedings being held in an open meeting rather than occurring in executive session. The opposite is usually the case. In this incident, however, we feel that utilizing the tool of executive session was the only way to handle these matters in a discreet manner and represent Jenkins County professionally in the presence of out-of-town visitors who were at the meeting. We urge the commissioners to use a little more discretion in the future.

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