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Commission infighting goes public: Et tu, Barlow?

Barlow says he will issue apology to public at Thurs. commission meeting

A political brouhaha will be settled this Thursday night as current County Commission Chairman Steve Brown will face opposition for the post from fellow Commissioner Charles “Chuck” Oddo in the annual vote for who will serve as commission chair for the year.

At the heart of the chairmanship battle is a heated behind-the-scenes dispute between Brown and fellow Commissioner David Barlow, who last week went public with the reasons he will not be supporting Brown as chairman this year.

Brown on Friday said all those reasons were “a smokescreen” for what he thinks is the real reason: their disagreement over the handling of the water department fiasco this summer involving several weeks of smelly, bad-tasting water.

Asked to comment on this and other points Brown raised, Barlow declined to address them directly Tuesday. However, Barlow said at Thursday night’s commission meeting he will issue “an apology to the citizens of Fayette County.”

“I regret that this has come into the public domain and at this point I feel the need to apologize to Fayette County taxpayers and to the administration of Fayette County government if I have brought any harm or ill will on them,” Barlow said.

In a lengthy interview Friday, Brown claimed that Barlow is using other issues to advocate for Brown’s removal as chairman because the public won’t support him on the real reason Barlow is upset: the handling of the water issue.

“I’d have more respect for him if he just said ‘I hated Steve Brown and I don’t want to ever see him be chairman,’” Brown said. “That would be just fine. He’s never going to say it’s because of the water thing because he knows he won’t win that in the public. I’d have more respect for him other than making up stuff, ‘I’ve got anonymous sources’ deal that he’s doing, and all these other things. Because nothing’s there.”

Brown was referring to Barlow’s comment in last week’s edition of The Citizen claiming that two unnamed sources who deal with the Atlanta Regional Commission have said Brown is despised by his counterparts at the ARC to the point where they don’t want to work with him on Fayette projects.

Brown said while he has disagreed with some matters advanced by ARC, he has done so respectfully and with research to show why his decision “is in the best interest of Fayette County.”

Brown opposed the regional transportation SPLOST that was defeated in 2013, and his work included speaking engagements around the metro area in which he advocated against passage of the T-SPLOST, which split its funding almost roughly in half between road and transit projects.

The T-SPLOST was an effort at first conceived by the Georgia Legislature and then implemented via a project list by a roundtable of regional officials with significant help from ARC staff. The ARC pitched in because of the voluminous amount of detailed information it already had on the vast majority of the proposed T-SPLOST projects.

“You can vote and be respectful,” Brown said. “... As long as you’re doing it in a professional way with researched, rational thoughts and you’re doing it for the right reason: doing what’s best for your constituents.”

Brown says he is the best-equipped commissioner for the chairman’s job particularly as it relates to working with ARC on the county’s transportation priorities, as the ARC works in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Transportation on administering state and federal road, highway and interstate funding. By law the chairman of each county commission in the 10-county metro Atlanta area sits on the ARC board of directors.

Brown said he has been able to make progress particularly on the improvements to the interchange at Interstate 85 and Ga. Highway 74 just across the county line in Fairburn, which is used by a large number of Fayette commuters going back and forth between Atlanta. Some $8 million has been moved up for right of way acquisition in 2015, Brown noted, saying he is the commissioner who is most familiar with the regional road funding process.

Barlow last week objected to Brown writing letters to the editor and blog posts, claiming that by signing them with his chairman’s title, readers will think Brown is speaking for the entire commission. Instead, Barlow said he wants Brown to run those letters by his fellow commissioners before submitting them, or just penning them as “commissioner” Brown instead.

Brown said the letters he has written to the editor to inform citizens have been “considerate and professional” and he said Barlow also has the opportunity to write letters to the editor if he wishes.

Brown further contends that Barlow once shouted at him during an executive session meeting earlier this year and threatened at the time that Brown would not be re-elected as commission chairman.

Brown said Barlow has also been abrasive in emails with him, highlighting one remark that said in part “God has given me the freedom to deal with you.”

“I have to pause, I have to say, ‘What does that mean?’” Brown said. “And what is he doing?”

Brown said he sent a copy to his colleagues and also to the sheriff with a note of “just in case, you’ve got a copy.”

“When someone says to you that God has ordained them to trash you, what’s your rationale? What are you supposed to say to that person?” Brown said.

The situation also had a ripple effect on the way others approach Barlow, Brown said.

“I think to some degree, some board members, maybe Rapson, maybe other people, have a high degree of fearful sensitivity because they don’t want Barlow exploding on them,” Brown said.

In reference to Barlow’s complaint about Brown working with residents on a potential four-way stop at Redwine Road at the entrance to the Whitewater Creek and Highgrove subdivisions, Brown insists part of his job is to listen to residents’ complaints and see if something can be done to address their concerns. The residents had complained about safety issues in getting their golf carts safely across Redwine, Brown said.

Furthermore, Brown contends that although the intersection doesn’t meet the statistical warrant data necessary for a four-way stop to be considered under the county’s current traffic warrants, those restrictions can be changed or perhaps the county could narrow the road to slow traffic down, or other traffic calming ideas.

“If Commissioner Barlow doesn’t like them, he can vote against them when they are brought up,” Brown said.

Brown contends that based on phone calls he has received, Barlow is losing support of local residents by taking up arms against Brown.

“And nobody supported him more than I did, which makes it even worse,” Brown said.



There's no need to apologize, David. We who suffered four years of the Brown leadership style in Peachtree City completely understand.

It's not what you say, it's how you say it, Steve. When will you get that?


NUK_1's picture

Isn't that what Brown said in his rambling nonsense letter? "Free speech without fear of reprisals?" That's his exact words.

In this case, he sends Barlow's "free speech" to the FCSO as well as the other commissioners. What happened to "uninhibited free speech" and "free speech with no reprisals" he rambled on about? It's because even he doesn't believe his own BS.

The "blackmail" and "extortion" claims Brown makes are every bit as ridiculous as his profound lack of any understanding on the 1st Amendment.

Brown just cannot get out of his own way and his fat mouth and I hope the rest of the commission sees the same and dumps him as chair. Next step, get rid of kook Barlow next election, same guy Brown couldn't praise enough and lie about his opponent enough to get him anointed by the Tea Party and elected.

This commission IS doing a good job. What's going on now threatens to seriously change that due to The Great Divider having to soothe his ego and run-off at the mouth as usual.

I think I would have sent a copy of that to the FCSO too.

I wouldn't want Jihadist Barlow going off the deep end.

NUK_1's picture

But I also wouldn't send letters to newspapers talking about free speech without reprisals or giving an interview accusing Oddo of blackmail and extortion.

Brown Clown's sell-by date has expired.

I know what you're saying. I feel the same way on many of the issues (present and past). And yes, he went overboard with his letter, but Barlow's reasoning was way off base. Mr. Oddo made some good points, but he also knew Browns history and is quite forgetful how Mr. Brown helped him get elected. And whether I like the quantity or information provided, we all certainly know where he stands. (Water)

I stepped back and began to squeeze it down to this past year alone, and looked at the 5 present commissioners without taking into account all of them on my list for not being truthful about the Comprehensive Plan. (That's another issue altogether)

I have emailed them at times over the past year, just like I have done in the past. Some of my requests were simple. Asking their opinions on certain issues, before a vote is taken. I simply want to know how they are thinking. Sometimes, its questions that I want to understand better.

Out of the 5, only Mr. Brown responds. Do I like the answer all the time? No. But he clarifies his thought process and he obviously has more inside information than I. Barlow has responded at times, but never provides any useful feedback. The 3 others have yet to ever respond, including Mr. Oddo. If they want the citizens to be active, I would expect at minimum a simple response like "I'm still processing information and have made no decision at this time" And I have to give kudos, when Mr. Brown handed over the details to someone else, he always follows up.

I looked back thru the meeting minutes and scanned the Citizen. No one but Mr. Brown has shown any leadership. I don't condone them airing their dirty laundry one bit. But now that its out there, I can clearly see, that you and I were both right concerning the zealot Mr. Barlow. I can't wait for his Jimmy Swaggart speech on Thursday.

If the commissioners elect a new chair on Thursday, it will certainly be made out of spite. If all 4, or just Barlow and Oddo wanted to reign him in, then they missed their chance at the last executive session when all 4 could have put it on the line and presented the ultimatum then. And if Brown couldn't agree, they could then make it public after the vote, that they had issues of leadership that couldn't be resolved privately and hence they choose a new chair. Everyone would have respected that and understood the reasoning due to his history. That also would have shown at least me, that the other 4 do have leadership skills.

Oddo is a nice guy, but he would be in over his head as chair, the ARC, and any other entity.

I'm not saying I approve of Mr. Brown and his politics, but when it comes down to brass tacks, he's the best choice at the moment.

to the public? For the taxpayers and county administration if I have brought any harm or ill will on them? Harm or ill will? Surely you jest. Mr. Barlow, you need some help, although not from a religious or political perspective.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

I don't think that is a valid approach to safety. Besides, all those teenagers that like to speed down Redwine Road would have trouble navigating a narrower road and they might have an accident. The solution Mr. Brown is simple - A Roundabout or Traffic Rotary. Cart path lane on the inside, a fountain in the center.

But don't get involved in all that. It just makes you look like you are pandering to the country club set for your next run at a state house office.

Instead, realize that you have trouble at home. When 2 of your own start attacking you, you have to spend at least a minute or two considering that you might be the problem instead of them. Sure Barlow is a loon, but he seems really against you for chairman. Oddo is certainly a fine, upstanding, even tempered, dedicated individual who has given you a graceful way to continue as chairman - which from my reading of his e-mail was to just act like a normal person instead of a haddix. Instead you attack and talk about free speech.

As many have reminded you (and Haddix) free speech does not mean you are free of consequences if your speech is hurtful, wrong or just plain silly. You have managed all 3 of those and more. You are in a hole, you should certainly stop digging and going forward you have 2 choices - ask Mr. Ognio for a shovel in the form of his vote tomorrow night. Might work. Might not. Or, do the classy thing and be the third vote for Mr. Oddo after he's nominated. And hand him the gavel nicely, don't throw it at him. Who knows, that may be interpreted as such a classy thing to do by future voters. You might even get Greg Dunn to manage your campaign.

Live free or die!

Perhaps Commissioner Barlow can also consider throwing in an apology for ignoring constituent inquiries? Brown is no Prince Charming, but at least he knows how to reply.

Good grief!!!

mudcat's picture

And we thank him for this food. Food for political fodder that is. What a dip. If we have to give up a commissioner to the naacp's swat team - let it be him. Barlow.

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