July 8, 2009
Neal Wagner -
The appointment of a former Columbus City Council candidate to the Lowndes County Industrial Development Board sparked a heated argument Monday during a county Board of Supervisors meeting.
Fierce exchanges between District 1 Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders and District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks marked the more than 30-minute discussion leading up to the board''s decision to appoint former Ward 5 City Council candidate Kenneth McFarland to the industrial board.
The Board of Supervisors voted 3-1, along racial lines, to appoint McFarland over former Ward 5 Councilman Jay Jordan, when questions were raised over potential conflicts Jordan might have with real estate holdings.
McFarland will fill the District 5 Industrial Development Board vacancy left last month after the resignation of newly elected Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem, and will serve until Nov. 15.
Sanders, District 2 Supervisor Frank Ferguson and District 3 Supervisor John Holliman voted for McFarland. Brooks voted against appointing McFarland, and District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith abstained from voting.
The appointment came several minutes after Brooks requested the board postpone the appointment until November, when Karriem''s term on the industrial board was set to expire. Historically, the candidate for appointment has come from the District 5 supervisor; Jordan was Brooks'' pick. McFarland is a political opponent of Brooks.
However, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of giving the appointment to McFarland. Sanders, Holliman and Ferguson voted in favor of keeping the appointment on Tuesday''s agenda. Smith and Brooks voted to remove it from the agenda.
During discussions on the appointment, Brooks voiced much criticism for McFarland, saying the board was "forcing McFarland down (Brooks'') throat."
"I totally disagree entirely with Mr. McFarland''s philosophy," Brooks told the board, as McFarland sat a few feet from him. "I want to at least have a person on that board that if an issue arises that needs to be resolved, at least I can sit down and talk with them.
"I do not think he can represent District 5 in a manner I would like it represented, and I don''t think this board should force someone on me," Brooks added.
After the board voted in favor of appointing McFarland, Brooks vowed the former City Council candidate would not "serve a peaceful day" on the Industrial Development Board.
"You''ve declared war, and you''re not going to win," Brooks said as he pointed at McFarland. "I want the public to know that I don''t want you representing nothing I''m involved with.
"You will not serve a peaceful day on that board. You don''t represent what I like," Brooks added to McFarland. "I will do everything in my legal way to keep you from serving on that board."
However, Sanders said the industrial development board appointment is a decision to be made by the Board of Supervisors, not a single supervisor.
"It doesn''t say anywhere in any place that the appointment to any board is the prerogative of the individual supervisor," Sanders said.
"Did you not appoint your guy?" Brooks shot back.
After McFarland''s appointment, Brooks announced his resignation from the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link board of directors.
"I know Link officials are involved in this," Brooks said of McFarland''s appointment. "I cannot support an organization that undermines what I try to do."
Because Link bylaws require two supervisors on its board of directors, the Board of Supervisors next month will elect a member to replace Brooks.
"You want us to choose your replacement today?" Sanders asked Brooks.
"You can do whatever the hell you want to do since you''re choosing all the appointments anyway," Brooks replied. "I don''t even need to come to the board meetings if y''all are going to run it."
In other business, the board:
If awarded, the grant could total as much as $221,228, and would require a 5 percent match, to be split evenly between the city and the county.
Sanders, Smith, Holliman and Ferguson voted for the motion. Brooks abstained from voting on the motion.
"Are you abstaining, Mr. Brooks?" Sanders asked Brooks after Brooks voted neither for nor against.
"Did you see my hand go up, Harry?" Brooks replied. "Just record it as you see it."
Dispatch reporter Neal Wagner did not attend Tuesday''s Lowndes County Board of Supervisors meeting. This story was written from a DVD recording of the meeting. Video segments of the Board of Supervisors'' Tuesday meeting are below.