The Camden County Public Service Authority (PSA) board of directors, which was expanded by act of the Georgia State Legislature, seated six new board members at its first meeting of the year.
Camden County District 1 Commissioner Lannie Brant, St. Marys Mayor John Morrissey and Grayson Day were the only returning members of the board, which previously included three local mayors and two county commissioners. Brant and Day were appointed chair and vice chair, respectively.
In response to past embezzlement and mismanagement at the PSA, a grand jury asked Camden's legislators to change the board makeup and allow for more citizen participation on the board and put the issue on a ballot referendum for voters to decide. Eighty-four percent of voters approved the measure in last November's general election.
The new law states: "The authority shall be composed of nine members: the members shall include the elected official or appointee of the city of Kingsland, city of St. Marys and the city of Woodbine and the elected officials or appointee for the county of Camden."
This served to reduce the county's elected official representation, previously two elected members, so that it would be on equal footing with the cities, which only had one appointee. In recent public meetings, all three cities reappointed their elected mayors — Woodbine Mayor Kizzi Knight, Day and Morrissey — which was clearly stated in the new law.
The law further states, "Each city council shall appoint one resident from their respective city to serve on the authority and the county board of commissioners shall appoint two residents of the county to serve on the authority."
St. Marys appointed Lili High, Kingsland appointed Terry Landreth and Woodbine appointed Matthew Turner.
Camden County, however, voted to appoint two commissioners — District 5 Commissioner Ben Casey and Brant — and one non-elected resident, Denise Levasseur. Following that decision, several citizens questioned the interpretation of "resident" and whether the appointment of an elected official met the intent of the law.
Ben Goff from Harrietts Bluff asked the board which one of them represented him and the board's attorney, J. Patrick Brooks, said citizens should take their concerns to PSA director Joey Cason. Commissioners Brant and Casey both spoke up and invited Goff to contact them directly with any concerns he might have.
Some members of the Camden County Republican Party, which presented PSA information to the grand jury prior to its request for new legislation, also expressed concern that the appointments did not reflect the intent of the legislation that voters endorsed.
Both Rep. Steven Sainz and Sen. William Ligon, who represent Camden in the state legislature, said their intent was that a "resident" would be interpreted as a non-elected official. Ligon acknowledged that some clarification in the language of the law might be necessary moving forward.
Whether intended or not, this move by the commissioners shifts the voting majority from non-elected officials to elected officials.
Casey, the newest commissioner to join the PSA board, said he thinks the PSA's powers are unnecessarily broad and it probably would have been better to dissolve it and start over with a new model.
Goff, in an email to the PSA board and others after the meeting, said he agreed with Casey but has seen a lot of positive changes at the PSA in recent months.
"I don't believe the makeup of the 'new' board turned out as many people, myself included, would have hoped but the results forthcoming will speak for themselves. One meeting doesn't make for a valid assessment," Goff wrote.