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Commissioners Choose United Community Bank

Procurement Director Donna Kukarola says rejecting the purchasing staff recommendation will cost taxpayers an extra $30,000 to $50,000.

Without explanation Thursday, and against the recommendation of its purchasing staff, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners accepted United Community Bank's proposal to provide the county's banking services, even though it will cost already strapped taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars more each year than the competing proposal.

With Commissioners Todd Levent and Pete Amos absent, Chairman Brian Tam and Commissioner Patrick Bell voted to reject staff's recommendation to accept a proposal from SunTrust Bank.

During a brief recess at last night's meeting, Procurement Director Donna Kukarola estimated the decision would cost taxpayers an extra $30,000 to $50,000 each year.

In a difficult economy where officials are struggling to reduce spending, Commissioner Jim Boff, who cast the only vote in opposition, said he was puzzled by the decision.

"I have to say, I happen to believe staff made the right recommendation to go with SunTrust," Boff said. "Unless someone gives me a major reason, I remain confused as to why go with United Community Bank."

Boff was the only commissioner to vote against the move.

SunTrust representative Dan Farrar, who spoke during the public forum, asked commissioners to accept the recommendation of the purchasing staff. Farrar said SunTrust has been a good neighbor and an active member of many community organizations, including the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce and Lanier-Forsyth Rotary Club. SunTrust also has nine branch locations in Forsyth County compared to UCB's three.

In other business, commissioners approved amendments to the county's alcohol and controversial ethics ordinance. They also voted to keep the recreation center open on Sundays and Tam read a proclamation declaring the week of April 10-16 as Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

Changes to the alcohol ordinance will allow nonprofit organizations to apply for 12 permits a year to sell alcohol off premises during special events.

Changes to the ethics ordinance were approved despite pleas from citizens to scrap them in their entirety.

Emily Crabb spoke eloquently, in asking commissioners to remove any amendments that "would penalize the people's constitutional right to petition their government."

Former Commissioner David Richard chided the board, saying, "If you don't want an ethics complaint filed against you, stop being unethical."

Former Forsyth County GOP Chairman Gray Smith pointed out that one commissioner (Chairman Brian Tam) had more than one ethics complaint lodged against him and observed that 2012 is an election year.

"Perhaps that is the problem," Smith said. "This is chipping away at the freedoms we have in this country."

While commissioners eliminated part of Section 8B of the ordinance that exposes witnesses to criminal prosecution if they commit perjury during an ethics hearing, they let stand another part of that section that would allow the county to collect "costs" and attorney's fees in the case of "frivolous, false or politically motivated" complaints.

Boff's motion to strike Section 8 in its entirety died for lack of a second.

The change to the alcohol ordinance permits nonprofit organizations like the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce to request 12 special event permits each year instead of five.

Steve Phillps April 09, 2011 at 12:54 AM
The county should take the lowest offer like any other bid. If they did not then what was the reason. We should be told the difference between the offers.
Bill April 09, 2011 at 02:56 PM
Thanks for reading Patch, Steve. You're absolutely right.
Emily Crabb April 09, 2011 at 09:43 PM
The county owes the citizens an explanation as to why they are so willing to spend their money, up to 50,000.00, without a good reason. Comm. Boff is also confused as to why they won't go with the staff's recommendation. Am I the only one who believes Comm. Boff should have at least been informed of the reasons. Thank you, Emily Crabb
Michele Leyland April 10, 2011 at 03:57 AM
Commissioners Tam and Bell already have a bit of a tarnished reputation for deceiving the public. Look at the way they rescinded last year's vote on building a new County Animal Shelter. I do not trust either of them one bit. Commissioner Bell personally lied to my face regarding that situation. They should be held accountable and be forced to explain why they made their decision. I would not be a bit surprised if kickbacks were involved. I cannot wait until we have a chance to vote out these suspiciously corrupt politicians who think they can do whatever they want with the taxpayer's money without being accountable. Do they think they are God? I think not. Commissioner Boff seems to be the only person in authority with a conscience. I hope he continues to have the bravado to stand up for what is right and wrong and not be intimidated by the rest of the officials he is forced to deal with, who obviously have no respect for him as to even include him in their decision making rationale.
Bill April 10, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Emily, thank you for reading Cumming Patch and for your eloquent comments at the commission meeting. Even more important than informing Commissioner Boff, those who approved spending $30,000 to $50,000 a year more for banking services with UCB than the lowest competing proposal, commissioners owe the public an explanation.
Bill April 10, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Michele, thank you for reading Cumming Patch. Please continue to do so and tell your friends about us. Patch was the first to break this important story.
Alan McKee April 10, 2011 at 09:51 PM
I understand a majority vote is all that is needed,but I feel like votes concerning this amount of money need to have the full staff vote. It seems a lot of votes get thru with only partial staff present. Why do we need 5 Commissioners if three can make all the decisions?
Bill April 11, 2011 at 09:35 AM
Thank you for being a Patch reader, Alan. Your point is well taken. I think the public would like to know where the two commissioners who were absent stand on this plan to spend an extra $30,000-$50,000 each year and, more importantly, why!
Mike Kennedy April 14, 2011 at 09:11 PM
A real reporter would have mentioned that the two new commissioners had already voted in favor of the change to United Community Bank in the work session instead of sleazy so called reporting like this. A real reporter would have mentioned that the two new commissioners were on holidays that had been arranged prior to taking office. To make it sound any different, as done here, is sleazy journalism. Should I expect anything different? I guess that's why this "reporter" is here instead of with a real newspaper.
Liz Kennedy (Editor) April 15, 2011 at 12:30 AM
Hi Mike, thank you for commenting and expressing your thoughts here--we welcome our reader's and/or visitor's to to do so on Cumming Patch.

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