Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Camden Official Will Face Voting Dilemma; Commissioner-Elect Sears Works in the Sheriff's Office and Will Face Votes on Issues of That Department

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Camden Official Will Face Voting Dilemma; Commissioner-Elect Sears Works in the Sheriff's Office and Will Face Votes on Issues of That Department

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

WOODBINE - When Camden County commissioner-elect Charlene Sears takes her oath of office in January, she faces having to abstain from voting on some issues regarding the Camden County Sheriff's Office, where she works as the department's public relations director.

Jim Grubiac, general counsel for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, said he hasn't had to deal with questions about a sheriff's employee serving as an elected official in the state before, but he believes Sears' position creates potential problems for her voting on certain issues.

"Any time there is a possible vote she is considering that could benefit her or her employed office, it could be a possible conflict," he said. "I would assume the county attorney would look at this."

County attorney Brent Green said he is researching the issue and hopes to resolve the matter before Sears takes the oath of office on Tuesday, Jan. 2.

"It's an interesting dilemma," he said. "It may have to be considered on a case-by-case basis. You have to be very careful."

At least two other county commissioners, Steve Berry and Sandy Feller, who lost his re-election bid to Sears in the July primary elections, said she will not be able to legally vote on all issues because she is employed by the Sheriff's Office.

"She has a conflict of interest voting on monetary matters affecting her department," Feller said.

Berry, who is an attorney, said Sears shouldn't vote on "anything regarding the Sheriff's Office directly."

"She has a direct interest in voting on the Sheriff's Office budget," Berry said. "She's going to have to abstain."

David Rainer, county commission chairman, said it is premature to speculate on Sears voting on certain issues, saying it's a legal issue that still has to be determined.

"It would not be fair to me as an individual to decide," he said. "I have not discussed this."

Sears agreed she wouldn't be able to vote on the annual budget for the Sheriff's Office, but said she will still be allowed to have input in parts of the sheriff's budget that won't benefit her personally.

"I will have a lot of input, but I won't be able to vote on the budget," she said. …

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