County Chairman Tim Lee on Tuesday delayed anti-tax activist Lance Lamberton from being appointed to the county’s 15-member citizen group that provides oversight for special purpose local option sales tax funds.
First-year Commissioner Lisa Cupid planned to appoint Lamberton, president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, to the county’s SPLOST watchdog committee, but during Tuesday’s meeting she announced that a member of the Board of Commissioners had approached her with concerns about Lamberton.
“I’m not going to reveal any names, but I heard from someone on the board who had some concerns, just one person who did,” Cupid said. “They saw the paper this morning, they came directly to me. It was minutes before this meeting. Just out of respect I want to give them the benefit of conversation before I make a motion.”
While she and the other commissioners don’t always vote the same, Cupid said she has a good working relationship with them, “and I’d like to preserve that, and if it means just holding this off for another meeting so we can have that conversation I’m going to give my peer that respect.”
Cupid said the vote on Lamberton will again come up at the June 25 meeting.
Lee admitted to the MDJ after the meeting that he was the one who asked Cupid to hold off on the Lamberton vote.
“My issue is this: when we make appointments to any board it’s always good to have someone who is a subject-matter expert if it’s required and to have someone who is perceived by the community to have an unbiased, very even keel, educated perspective on the whole issue, not one that is to the extreme on one side or the other,” Lee said.
Lee said his opposition to Lamberton serving on the SPLOST committee was the same reason he opposed immigration reformer D.A. King serving on the new committee recently formed to find best practices for ensuring the county doesn’t hire illegal immigrants.
“To put someone in there that might be biased one way or the other creates a distraction that takes the focus away from the true work, and we’ve had how many years of successful oversight representation and review by the citizen committees?” Lee said. “Have not found anything. I don’t believe it would be any different if (Lamberton) were on it. I just think the focus would go away from what their primary responsibilities are to what does Lance Lamberton think is occurring, and I just don’t think that’s the way to go.”
Lee said he intended to speak with Cupid about the appointment in private, but if she still wanted to appoint Lamberton, “Then it’s a district appointment, and she can bring him forward next week if that’s what she wants to do.”
Lamberton, who was not at the meeting, made the following comment when told of what Lee had said.
“Is the Chairman saying that if you are opposed to the SPLOST passage you are biased, but if you are in favor of it that makes you unbiased? That to me sounds irrational and unreasonable,” Lamberton said. “As far as being knowledgeable, I think I’m just about as knowledgeable as any lay person could possibly be. I mean, my organization and I have done thorough research on every single possible project that is on the SPLOST list, and the reason we came up with our opposition is because so many of the projects on the list we felt were more wants versus needs.”
This is not the first time Lee has moved to stop a watchdog resident from serving on a county committee. In 2011, Lee, along with commissioners Helen Goreham and JoAnn Birrell, voted down Commissioner Bob Ott’s appointment to the Citizens Oversight Committee, Thea Powell. Powell, herself a former commissioner, has a countywide reputation for asking tough questions and is a withering critic of one of Lee’s strongest allies, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.
Then-Commissioner Woody Thompson, who held the seat prior to Cupid, referred to the vote against Powell as “purely political” at the time.