The quickly-called special meeting for the Fannin County Board of Commissioners that occurred on May 2 was supposedly for the County to explain the settlement of the lawsuit brought by former county employees. Mid-way, the meeting took a turn towards County Commissioner Bill Simonds’ action of signing checks totaling $208,000 without prior approval from all the Commissioners.
County Attorney Lynn Doss had just finished explaining the lawsuit, when Mr. Simonds made a surprise unrelated motion that two county commissioners sign all checks over $4,500. The Commissioners agreed. The former Commission rule is that the Commissioners must approve all checks over $4,500, but only one Commissioner needs to sign them. Now, after the rule change, two Commissioners must sign each check over $4,500.
After the motion, Post-Commissioner Earl Johnson said “We have had several problems with checks leaving here and some of them being misplaced…. Hopefully from here on out another check does not slip through.” Then speaking about the newly-instated rule, Mr. Johnson said, “Two Commissioners sign the check does mean that two Commissioners sign the check. I am being redundant on purpose. No other check leaves here over $4,500.”
While Mr. Johnson never referred to Mr. Simonds by name, Mr. Johnson did say, “One of the other two Commissioners knows when a check has been cut that says Fannin County Board of Commissioners.” Mr. Johnson also said that he had not been apprised of aspects of the lawsuit. He did not continue to name the person who should have been responsible for relaying significant information to him.
Elaine Owns of the Fannin Sentinel asked Mr. Johnson if he was referring to a check written to settle the lawsuit. Mr. Johnson replied, “Yes I am referring to the lump sum check of 208,000 on April 15, 2016.”
Later, an attendee asked who signed the checks? Bill Simonds remained silent. She asked Mr. Sosebee if he has signed the check. He replied no. She then asked Mr. Simonds, “Are we to assume that you wrote the checks.” Mr. Simonds responded to this question by saying “You can assume whatever you want to.” She pressed him again and asked “Were you aware of it?” Mr. Simonds replied, “Yeah, I guess I was aware of it.”
Ms. Doss stated in later answers to questions from attendees that the insurance company will reimburse the amounts of the checks. (read Ms. Doss’s explanation of the lawsuit and payments here.) Indeed, the insurance firm did reimburse each check on April 18, three days after Mr. Simonds signed the original checks. The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) collected the original checks and provided reimbursements. ACCG is a para-governmental organization which county commissions throughout Georgia belong to. An ACCG division handles liability insurance for county commissions belong to the organization.
This article has been updated to reflect new information.
If viewing the video of the meeting, this section begins at approximately 10 minutes and 50 seconds into the video.