Chattahoochee Chatter: Councilor Huff should rely more on city attorney, less on the Inquirer

June 19, 2013 

Well, this is awkward.

One day after reporting that a councilor may have a conflict of interest, Chatterland starts off with its own conflict …

Columbus Councilor Bruce Huff was being interviewed after Tuesday's council meeting by Ledger-Enquirer reporter Mike Owen and two television reporters when Owen asked him about a potential conflict of interest.

Huff had just been in an extended discussion with Coroner Buddy Bryan in part over fees Bryan wants to raise and some tasks, such as cremations, that he said he can do for less than local funeral homes are charging the city.

Huff, whose family owns International Funeral Home, said he didn't think participating in the process was a conflict as long as he didn't cast a vote on it.

When a TV reporter followed up with another question about the potential conflict, Huff said he would recuse himself if it were determined to be a conflict.

"I rely on the city attorney and Mike Owen and all of y'all to remind me that there are certain gray areas in this business, and there are things I can't do," Huff said.

Councilor Huff, we would strongly suggest you rely more heavily on the former than the latter. (No offense, Mike.)

As it turns out, City Attorney Clifton Fay did advise Huff later Tuesday of a section of the City Charter that suggests that he should "disqualify himself from participating in any decision or vote relating" to areas in which he has a personal interest.

•••

From conflict of interest to the school board and its old building … not too far to travel, eh?

At its meeting Monday night, the Muscogee County School Board approved proceeding with the demolition of the former Muscogee County School District Administration Building at 1200 Bradley Drive and awarded the job to Complete Demoliton Services LLC of Carrollton, Ga.

The winning bid was $72,000, quite a difference from the high bid of $268,000.

Last summer, the property was transferred to the Columbus Museum for its exclusive use.

Wednesday, the museum's director Tom Butler said the museum does not yet have a specific use for the land.

He said the museum staff did examine the building to see if it could be used but there were "so many problems involved in rehabbing it" that it was better to "bring it down and stabilize the site."

He said, this way, when the museum decides what it wants to do with the land, "we'll be ready." Butler said having a boarded up building at that prominent location would not be good.

•••

A refugee from Chatterland had jury duty this week and returned mighty impressed with Superior Court Judge William Rumer for reasons having nothing to do with jurisprudence but everything to do with simply being a gentleman.

After a series of pleas whittled the docket's 30-plus cases to zero, Rumer took time to graciously thank members of the jury pool for waiting more than two hours. He also gave a brief history lesson to explain why they ended up in the Columbus Government Center as potential jurors. He noted King Henry II, who ruled England from 1154-89, made the legal reforms that established the basis for English Common Law, including the right to a trial by jury.

So although the potential jurors didn't get the dramatic payoff of a trial for their time, they left feeling more appreciated and perhaps a little more educated.

•••

Speaking of education, this one falls into the category of "for what it's worth" and perhaps even "ouch!"

It seems that when it comes to manufacturing in Georgia, the state gets a grade of "D+" simply because the its overall workforce isn't quite smart enough. That's according to Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research, which took a look at all 50 states.

"Each of the south Atlanta, states of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia have a key problem," Michael Hicks, director of the Indiana university's research center, said in an email. "In the northern states it is taxes, in the southern states it is human capital."

That's right. In the category of "human capital," Georgia also rates a "D" for the low levels of educational attainment of its workers.

In other categories, Georgia received a grade of "B" in logistics, "B" in worker benefit costs, "C" in tax climate, "A" in expected liability gap, "C+" in global reach, "A" in sector diversification and "C" in productivity and innovation.

So, a "D+" in manufacturing, huh?

Guess they haven't been in the Chattahoochee River lately!

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