May 4, 2021 Camden County Commissioner’s Meeting at 10:00 am

All three commissioners were present.

There were three other people in the audience who weren’t county employees.

The first item was the 2021 Tax Sale Publication bid. There were two bids. A representative from the Collector’s Office was there and they will review the two bids. This item was tabled pending their review.

The second item was the sealed bid for the appraisal of the historical/old County Commission building behind the courthouse. There were ZERO bids received. Total silence. This seemed to create a bit of a dilemma. Commissioner Hasty stated he called several people to let them know it was up for bid, but nobody bid. He commented it might be because the current real estate market is pretty hot.

(My opinion: it seemed pretty obvious that at least one reason might be that no appraisers were willing to grab hold of the hornet’s nest that the County Commission building has become. Current allegations are:

  1. the building was purchased at a higher than market cost from a seller with a conflict of interest and
  2. that improvements performed on the building were below code standards so
  3. the County both overpaid and still has to spend money to bring it up to code.

So I would think your typical appraiser might not be keen to anger either the accusers or the accused by setting a value.)

Of course, no one came out and suggested Dave’s Hypothesis #2 so there was a discussion about how to proceed.

Commissioner Gohagan asked whether commissioners should be inviting individuals to bid on Camden County projects. This appeared to be directed at Commissioner Hasty’s previous statement that he had called several people about the sealed bid. Commissioners Hasty and Williams insisted it was okay to “invite” people to bid.

Commissioner Hasty stated that “people who were here before” did not want Loren Woodard to do the new appraisal. I missed that meeting. Woodard is apparently the same appraiser who previously appraised the building for $700,000. The Tax Assessor suggested that Connie Mudge be contacted to appraise the property. Prior to him becoming Tax Assessor, she had done two appraisals for him and he felt the appraisals were fair. Charles McElyea, the Legal Advisor to the Commission, suggested calling mortgage loan departments from banks to see who they could use for the appraisal. Commissioner Williams will contact Central Bank. The Tax Assessor will try to contact Connie Mudge. I’m sure she will be thrilled to take on this task. 🙂

Item was tabled.

The next item was the Sheriff-Bail Bonds Agreement. The title is misleading because this was actually a renewal for a CCTV advertising agreement for the jail. Apparently, bail bondsmen can pay to advertise on the jail CCTV system and this policy has been in place for years. Sheriff Helms explained this one. The bail bondsmen used to advertise with mugs, pens, and other merchandise, but when Sheriff Helms was not Sheriff Helms and was in charge of the jails, younger Helms started a program where the bondsmen could pay to advertise on CCTV instead of producing merchandise that was a problem for jail operations. It earns $1500/year and pays for itself. The jail keeps a book with all of the contact information for bail bondsmen in the event the CCTV system breaks down. Commissioner Gohagan read the agreement and noted that Melvin Gunn Bail Bonds was the only name on the renewal. More on this later.

The agreement was renewed.

The final agenda item was the Certified Copy of Order. This refers back to a previous meeting when the Commissioners passed a budget amendment to move the COVID Officer to a court security position. The order will transfer $83,566 to move the current COVID Officer position. Commissioner Hasty asked the Sheriff to explain this move for the “members of the public who are in attendance” (That’s us and by inference, all of the readers) Sheriff Helms explained it to all four (millions) of us. A court order has to be approved by the commission after a budget amendment. Commissioner Hasty then explained to us that it is called a court order because the county commissioners used to be judges. Most of us nodded appreciatively. The order was approved.

The commissioners then voted to go into closed session. So that was my cue to grab my jacket and leave.

And that was that.

My opinion:

This meeting definitely seemed more tense than normal. On a positive note, there was an obvious effort to be more descriptive about the issues and more discussion on matters. This was a far cry from the first meetings I attended when bids were being approved without much information about the bidders.

Regarding the Building Appraisal Bid. I think I agree that commissioners should not be inviting vendors to bid on items, especially for a sealed bid. While it might not be illegal, it seems inappropriate. Would we feel differently if instead of a commissioner “inviting” a bid, the commissioner was “soliciting” a bid? The difference between those two verbs is slim when politics are involved.

I was confused by the description of the Sheriff’s Office CCTV system for bail bondsmen. The Sheriff stated they provided a book of bail bondsmen when the system goes down but according to Commissioner Gohagan’s stated reading of the contract, it appeared that the CCTV system only has a single bail bond company paying to advertise. It doesn’t seem fair that a single bail bond company can pay to have exclusive access to inmates in the holding cells as long as the TV system is working. If that were the case, I’m sure they would make the $1500 they’re paying back in no time. I’m planning to follow up with Sheriff Helms on this issue to give him the benefit of the doubt, but if any CCSO deputies want to explain the system to me better privately off the record or in public, I’d appreciate it.

Finally, and this really irritated me, Camden County posted a Commission meeting notice for 10:00 am on May 4, 2021. Then, the day before the meeting, posted a revised Commission meeting for 10:00 am on May 4, 2021 that had a 1:00 pm Mack’s Creek meeting inside the agenda. That is absolute garbage and an attempt to avoid the Sunshine Law. If you have a 1:00 meeting, schedule it separately and don’t try to tack it on as a revised agenda. People who have read what I have written before know that attempts to avoid the transparency required for public business discussed by public officials infuriate me.

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