Candidates for Oconee Commission Chairman Answer Questions About Transparency
Incumbent Chairman Melvin Davis and challenger Chuck Horton, current Post 4 commissioner, faced off at a candidates forum on June 14.
There are times when a chairman must keep certain details confidential and others when he is able to divulge more information to the public and to the Board, Oconee County Commission Chairman Melvin Davis said at a political forum last week when open government was called into question.
Davis, who's seeking a fourth term in office, is facing a challenge from current Post 4 Commissioner Chuck Horton. Both are Republicans who'll square off in the July 31 primary.
At the forum June 14 at North Oconee High School, sponsored by the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce and moderated by journalist Tim Bryant of 1340 WGAU radio station, the candidates fielded a number of questions from the audience related to transparency in the office.
Davis claimed he's been accessible ever since he first stepped into the office in 2001.
"When I first came into office, the blinds were closed...you couldn't get to see the Chair unless you had an appointment," he said. "The day I came in office, we raised the blinds, we attempted to to try answer and be accessible to anyone who desired to have issues and discussions with the Chair-- that opportunity was there."
He said he prides himself "in being as open, as honest and as transparent as possible," but conceded there are times he's unable to disclose certain information.
"I will never divulge what other people have expressed to me in confidence," Davis said.
But Horton said he and other commissioners at times have felt left in the dark about important matters, part of what led to the reorganization of positions, including that of chairman, in 2009.
"If somebody comes in and is gonna be on an agenda item and I have to vote on it, I think all commissioners are due the respect to know what is going to be voted on," he argued. " It's just that simple. I don't think anybody in this room would want to be treated that way."
Watch the attached video clip from the forum for more details.
When to Opine, or not, as Chairman
Though only commissioners cast votes, except in the case of a tie, Horton said a chairman should be forthcoming about his positions on all issues, something he vowed to do if elected.
"[As commissioner] I don't have the option to only vote in a tie. I'm on the line every time we vote on issues," he said. "I have no problem letting people know my positions."
Davis said he has revealed his opinions in the past, but after commission votes took place.
"There have been major issues that I felt like it was important for the Board to know how I stood, for the public to know how I stood, and I made that opinion known," he said. "But it was after the fact when the Board voted."
Horton replied by saying it's understandable a chairman in some cases may not reveal an opinion until after a vote, but not always.
"Maybe on zoning issues there's a little bit more protocol as to when you notify the public," he said. "But a lot of other issues, I think it's okay for folks going into that to know [the chairman] is trying to do the right thing."
But a chairman's position on a given issue, even if not explicitly stated, can often be derived from discussion and questions he may pose to staff, Davis said.
Davis and Horton have been invited to attend a forum sponsored by the Oconee County GOP on June 21 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Watkinsville Community Center. They are slated to speak from 7:30-8 p.m.
Both candidates have also agreed to stop by the meeting of the Oconee County Democratic Committee, also on on June 21, at the Adult Learning Center. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and Davis and Horton are expected sometime after 8 p.m.
Learn more about the candidates by visiting their campaign websites:
Melvin Davis - www.re-electmelvindavis.com
Chuck Horton - www.hortonboc.com