Two Cleveland County commissioners have approved themselves as officers on an account from which millions of federal relief money will be spent over the coming year, sidelining a third commissioner who has been excluded from the account.
At least $ 55 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds will be allocated as commissioners prioritize how they are spent, The Transcript reported.
The name of Rod Cleveland of District 1 did not appear on Monday’s agenda item designating Chairman of Commissioners Darry Stacy and Vice-Chairman Harold Haralson as petitioners on the fund. The fund will have separate requesting agents and receiving agents to manage it.
Requesting agents can make requests to purchase the fund themselves, while Cleveland can do so through a staff member, The Transcript learned after the meeting. Regardless of how purchase orders are created, each must be approved by the committee at a board meeting.
Stacy told Cleveland he was following a recommendation to have only two commissioners on the account, as well as an alternate third person, Denise Ellison, who is the executive assistant to the three commissioners.
“I asked our executive assistant that [question] More precisely; she said they were two requesting agents and a typical back-up, ”Stacy said.
Cleveland said in the past it was common to have all three county commissioners as officers on similar fund accounts and asked why it would be any different now.
“Just for the reason I stated,” Stacy said. He then proposed to have George Mauldin, the county’s director of emergency management, as an alternate third party. Cleveland did not comment.
The motion was carried, with Cleveland voting no.
In contrast to the fund’s transactions, District 2 Office Director Dana Jones and Administrative Assistant to Commissioners Melissa Nies were appointed reception agents.
Cleveland asked why Jones would be appointed to the post when she works outside the Commissioners’ Office at the courthouse.
“Melissa is in our executive office here and with Dana being outside this office, she is outside the courthouse,” Cleveland said.
Stacy said Jones had the experience to be “back up.”
“Well, if you speak from experience, I think Christi Morren has more experience in the commissioner’s office,” Cleveland noted. Morren is the Cleveland office assistant.
Haralson immediately moved to approve the motion to appoint Jones and Nies; it was adopted unanimously.
After the meeting, Stacy told The Transcript that having a third party who did not sit on the County Commissioners Council as the requesting officer was a “check and balance” decision.
He further noted that it was not uncommon to appoint the chairman and vice chairman of the board of these funds. Despite an annual vote to select the president and vice-president designations, Cleveland hasn’t held any accolades since 2018.
Cleveland said the move doesn’t mean he won’t be able to view the account or make requests for funds.
“Overall it’s petty,” Cleveland said. “I still see the accounts, it’s just that I don’t have the authorization to enter and create a PO (order form) on the computer. I don’t create purchase orders, I have staff who do.
Cleveland said he was questioning the appointment of Jones, Stacy’s assistant in her District 2 barn, as she didn’t have as much experience as Morren.
Morren was awarded at the meeting for completing an over 80 hour training program, Road Scholar, through the local technical assistance program. Cleveland completed the course in 2015.
Commissioners approved a $ 180 million leased income bond for Moore Public Schools. The move makes it easier for the district to access funds more quickly, said Stacy.
“We are making the obligations so that they get the funds immediately to start their projects, otherwise it would be an annual payment,” he said. “That way it’s structured to get them the money up front.”
David Floyd of Floyd Law Firm, which practices municipal bond and public finance law, said the firm is using the county as a public trust for school bonds.
“The county trust will issue the bonds because they have a bit more capacity in how they structure things financially,” he said. “So a county public trust will issue bonds and the funds will be used by the school to build the improvements. It’s all school money, not county money. We are simply using their capacity as a public trust.