Originally created 09/14/99

Residents demand board's resignation



A group of McDuffie County residents is accusing the county commission of financial mismanagement and wants the board members removed from office.

The group formally has asked for a recall -- a process that would allow voters to decide if the commissioners keep their seats -- for each of the board members. They turned in five applications, each with more than the required 100 signatures from registered voters, said Bob Grzybowski, who is spearheading the effort.

"It just doesn't make sense to keep taking land out of the tax base that is making money and putting it into industrial parks that are paying no taxes," he said.

The recall process started in July, as commissioners were discussing creating a 600-acre industrial park along the interstate. To build the park, the county needed to rezone about 400 acres of residential property. Nearby residents opposed the park, and Mr. Grzybowski began gathering signatures.

However, after the applications were reviewed by Election Superintendent Phyllis Wheeler, the group had only enough signatures to proceed against three commissioners: Chairwoman Joyce Blevins, and Bill Howard and Lemuel Brooks III -- both of whom represent the Stagecoach area. Some of the signatures were invalid because the residents did not live in the commissioners' districts or were not registered when the commissioners were elected, Ms. Wheeler said.

Commissioners have vowed to fight the effort and have asked a judge to review the accusations. The judge can allow or decline the recall application.

"I think I have tried my dead level best to perform the responsibilities and duties of my office," said Mrs. Blevins, who's been commission chairwoman since 1983. "They are not always easy decisions to make, but you look at the whole county and try to make the best decision you can based on the information you have at your disposal."

If the judge allows the recall to continue, a committee has 30 days to get 30 percent of the registered voters to sign another petition. For Mrs. Blevins -- who represents the entire county -- that's 3,314 signatures. For Mr. Brooks and Mr. Howard, that's 1,853 signatures, Ms. Wheeler said.

Then the issue goes to a vote.

"It's the first that I know of in the county, unless it goes back a long time," said Ms. Wheeler, who's been in office for nearly a decade and has records going back to the early 1980s.

Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115, or jbsmith@augustachronicle.com.