Last week, the Lee County Board of Commissioners appointed Al Crace of Roswell, Ga., as the interim county administrator. Per both Crace and Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Ed Duffy, this is to be a temporary position lasting roughly five months or so. In other words, he could well be gone before the end of the year, though before spring break 2011 is more likely.
My problem, which I will be discussing with the board at their meeting and have already privately e-mailed them about, is the secrecy involved in Mr. Crace’s appointment. In the email I sent the commissioners, I did a very basic Google search on nothing more than his name, and I found references to some form of trouble in two of his jobs within this decade (he has held at least three, possibly more). Specifically, apparently he was fired by the mayor of Athens, and he resigned his post as Jackson County administrator barely 24 hours after telling the local paper that he had no intentions of doing so.
Because the board met in closed executive session (and daytime meetings, to boot) for the discussions on who to hire, there is no record of what was discussed. Therefore, we have no way of knowing what was said and no way of knowing whether these issues were thoroughly discussed. On this issue, the Lee County Board of Commissioners has worked in a way we in Southwest Georgia typically expect out of the governing authorities of Albany and Dougherty County – they have been transparent as mud.
Fortunately, I have no intentions of allowing Lee County to be as transparent as mud. We, the citizens of Lee County, have a right to know what our government is doing, and Georgia apparently has some of the best sunshine laws in the nation – laws which I intend to work to make even stronger. J.D. Sumner had an excellent piece on this a couple of weeks ago in the Herald, and a friend passed along some more relevant information that I intend to use.
Here are the documents JD referred to:
Below is the e-mail I sent to the commissioners with everything I found in my very cursory Google search mentioned above. So far, there has been no response from any commissioner.
“First, I want to note that I object to the secrecy involved in this process. It may be legal, but that doesn’t make it right, and y’all are starting to look more like the Albany governing bodies than any of us should be comfortable with. I hope that you will be more open and transparent with the search for a permanent replacement for Mr. Ours.
That noted, these are the results of a basic Google search of “Al Crace”:
Apparently he had some issues in Jackson County which may warrant some investigation on our end to find out the full story:
http://www.avoc.info/info/article.php?article=2145&ENGINEsessID=2b114d48559772d68d9d5a2c061505ed. A year prior to this, it was said that he did a good job with a courthouse project there: http://www.mainstreetnews.com/Arch/03/1203/JackOpinion.html. More news from Jackson: http://gameday.onlineathens.com/stories/101103/new_20031011048.shtml
There were also issues when he worked in Athens, with the mayor forcing him to resign per this letter to the editor, which the author objected to:
Again, I don’t see the full story here as to all that transpired, but it should be worth looking into.
Sandy Springs: (from 2009): http://www.ajc.com/search/content/metro/stories/2009/01/20/newcitiesbind0120.html. Another: http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2005/09/19/story7.html
Gainsville, 1991: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/08/us/town-cancels-its-parade-after-klan-enters.html 2 days earlier: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/06/us/klan-seeks-to-put-float-in-georgia-parade.html
In 2002, Crace was listed as a “former defendant” on this voting rights appeal: http://www.justice.gov/crt/briefs/hamrick.pdf
All of that (plus Carlton Fletcher’s article this morning) was found within the firstfive5 pages of the above described Google search.
Also found, but irrelevant for his official duties, was a Baptist News article discussing his former church in Athens and their separation from the Southern Baptist Convention due in part to their belief in ordaining women as clergy. http://www.baptistbanner.org/Subarchive_6/600%20GA%20FBC%20leaves%20SBC.htm.
Y’all conducted your meetings in secret, so I don’t know if any of the above was discussed or even mentioned, but hopefully none of this information is new to any of you.
Thank you for your time, and as always I look forward to working with each of you for the betterment of Lee County.”
Written by Jeff Sexton. Jeff Sexton co-owns the political blog SWGAPolitics.com and is former chairman for the Libertarian Party of Southwest Georgia