Landfill owners’ new lawsuit charges Elbert Commissioners with ‘conspiracy’

By Linton Johnson

Owners of Sweet City Landfill LLC have filed a lawsuit against the Elbert County Board of Commissioners, collectively and individually, over what they complain was a civil conspiracy against the proposed development of a Landfill Gas Waste to Energy Facility and Municipal Solid Waste Landfill in western Elbert County.
The suit, filed Thursday in Elbert County Superior Court, seeks additional civil damages against the county commissioners for alleged violations of the Georgia Open Meetings Act, intentional interference with business relations, intentional interference with contract relations and abuse of power, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs and punitive damages.
Named as defendants in the suit, along with the board as a whole, are current Commission Chairman Tommy Lyon and Commissioners Horace Harper, Lee Vaughn, Chris Alexander, Kenneth Ashworth and Freddie Jones, as well as former Commissioners Harold Reynolds and Frank Eaves and County Attorney Bill Daughtry.
The complaint cites comments made by former Commissioner Frank Eaves at a political forum in April 2018, in which Eaves referred to a “meeting before the meeting” believed to have taken place in 2012, when the board was scheduled to vote on the landfill project.
On Monday, the commissioners met in closed session for 15 minutes to discuss the litigation. When they returned to open session, they voted to hire the Cartersville law firm of Jenkins & Bowen P.C. to represent them in the lawsuit. Sweet City Landfill is represented by the Macon firm of Mayo Hill.
In other business, a public hearing was held on the county’s proposed $11.7 million budget for fiscal year 2019, which began July 1. The commissioners are scheduled to meet July 16 to approve the budget and consider a tax anticipation note, or line of credit from local banks, to maintain positive cash flow before property tax payments start coming in later in the year.
Phil Pitts, the county’s chief financial officer, said the county is in better financial condition than in years past.
“Years ago, when I was the independent auditor for Elbert County, it was a struggle to make payments on tax anticipation notes,” Pitts said. “The county’s finances were in such poor shape at that time that very early in a calendar year, the county was having to borrow money just to operate on and had to borrow the full amount. The county has now reached the point it has improved its financial position. It still does need a tax anticipation note, but the amount is later in the calendar year before we have to resort to borrowing money. So the county has really has improved significantly over the years in its financial position. I think that is a very positive thing the county has moved in that direction.”
The commissioners also approved two rezoning requests, the first changing a five-acre tract on Dewy Rose Road from residential to rural residential designation, and the second changing a 263-acre tract on Lincolnton Highway from agricultural to industrial, providing the property owner completes within one year the paperwork to place the property into Mineral Conservation classification.
The board also voted to double the advance deposit from $150 to $300 for rental of the Civic Center for events but tabled discussion and action on a proposed multimillion project by ABM Solutions to upgrade certain county buildings with energy improvements, which would be funded by energy cost savings resulting from the upgrades.

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