MOULTRIE -- Commissioner Billy Herndon is calling a board approval of equipment bids illegal.

It seems that the county has purchased $148,874 worth of equipment without ratifying a vote made during a called meeting Nov. 18, where the issue wasn't advertised.

The sticking point is the four-one approval was made when former Commissioner Ray Norman was on the board. Norman cast one of the four approving votes for the bids. With Rebecca Whitaker's transition to the board, that majority vote might not hold up when the issue comes back for a vote.

Or as Herndon terms it, a "legal vote."

During Tuesday night's regular meeting of the Colquitt County Board of Commissioners, Herndon asked whatever became of the ratification. It was not the first time Herndon brought it up. On Jan. 3 in a work session, he had inquired about making an equipment vote in regular meetings and questioned the legality of the Nov. 18 vote. County Attorney Bill McCalley agreed with Herndon at that session that the vote should have been ratified at the next regular meeting.

Several regular meetings have occurred since Nov. 18, and the bids never were on the agenda. Neither the county administrator nor any of the board brought up the issue at a regular meeting where the board could legally ratify the vote until Herndon did Tuesday. Herndon said he continued to expect the former administrator to bring up the ratification during regular meetings.

Another contention of Herndon's is that the bids weren't advertised. The issue was, however, listed on the agenda that was distributed Nov. 18 just before the work session.

Before Nov. 18, the board discussed purchasing motor graders and bulldozers. One John Deere motor grader -- the low bid and within budget -- was purchased at a regular meeting. Then-County Administrator Billy Mock, since voted out by a majority of the commission, was to have come back to the board with information on financing two other motor graders that were not in the budget.

A work session was called then mainly to address selecting material for repairs to the courthouse, Herndon said. But the bids came up in that Nov. 18 work session, which Herndon and Commissioner Merle Hall did not attend.

Mock signed off on the issuance of two motor grader purchase orders Nov. 19 as approved by commissioners, Jan Peek with the county purchasing department said. On Nov. 22, Charles Weathers and a representative of Yancey Brothers Co. (the Caterpillar dealer that was the successful bidder) came to the purchasing department to pick up the purchase orders, she said.

"If you ordered equipment, and it [the ratifying vote] was supposed to be done, you've broke the rules somewhere," Herndon said at Tuesday's meeting.

Chairman Max Hancock answered that the board has been breaking the rules for some time on that particular item and intends to have the matter come before the board for a vote at the next regular meeting.

Citizen Sandra Bishop questioned the board.

"That just kind of seems like it's not in the right order to me. It seems like you ought to ratify it before you let the purchase order out," Bishop said.

Hancock said that it's "standard procedure" to vote in a work session even if the issue in consideration isn't advertised and ratify it later.

Herndon later said the intent to discuss the bids had to be advertised along with the notice of the called meeting for the work session vote to be legal.

"It's against the law what they've done. They went ahead and ordered the equipment before they saw about getting it ratified," he said. "I say 'get it ratified,' but that they did in the work session was not a legal vote."

Herndon said when the vote comes up, he will vote against it.

"It's out of budget. ... It's not an emergency, and they took it out of reserves to do this. We've got the hospital to pay for, we've got Bridgeport Brass and we've got the landfill that won't go away. So, if they keep spending the county [reserves] like they're doing, the county's going to be like when I came on the board years 12 years ago. They're going to have to borrow money until the tax money comes in," he said.

"I want to keep all these reserves as long as we can, so if an emergency comes up, we have something to fall back on instead of going to the taxpayer and raising taxes," he said. "We can't keep doing business like this with county taxpayers' money. We need to do what's right for the taxpayers of this county."

Herndon said he believed the county has opened itself to liability if the purchase fails the ratification vote.

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