Transparency is Clearly a Hot Topic – Forsyth County Commissioners Cast Their Votes

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Forsyth County Administration Building

Forsyth County Administration Building

December 20, 2013 – Cumming, GA- In a 3-2 vote, Forsyth County’s Board of Commissioners voted down a proposal requiring entities applying for rezoning and variances to fully disclose who they are.

“I feel our current zoning method is transparent,” said Chairman Pete Amos. “I’ve never had a problem determining who the owner or developer was. If I felt it wasn’t transparent I would have voted differently.”

Commissioners Cindy Mills and Brian Tam also voted down the measure.

“I think the way it is being done right now we have a pretty good idea of who is applying,” Mills said at the meeting.

Commissioner Jim Boff brought up the proposal at the board’s Dec. 10 meeting which they discussed in length for more than 20 minutes.

“I think it can be important for the public to know who the Board of Commissioners are dealing with when it comes to doing business on behalf of the county,” said Boff. “I don’t believe you can get a library card without identifying yourself.”

Commissioner Todd Levent said simply he voted “in favor of transparency.”

Former Planning Commissioner Joe Moses, who recently resigned, brought this proposal to the board last month. The request calls for rezoning applicants who are corporate entities or LLCs to file an affidavit listing the officers, directors and corporate stockholders. The Planning Commission voted 4-1 against bringing this proposal to the board of commissioners but Boff decided to discuss it anyways because he thought it had merit.

Moses said earlier the impetus behind his proposal is simply to avoid a conflict of interest and promote an open government.

“This will allow us to know who exactly is applying and whether or not there is a conflict of interest and if so we can recuse ourselves,” he said. “It provides more of an open government.”

Boff agreed. “Elected officials have a responsibility to identify conflicts of interest.”

Vanessa Bernstein-Goldman, a senior planner with the Forsyth County Planning Department, said when their department receives a variance or rezoning application they verify with the Georgia Secretary of State that the LLC is compliant.

“It may or may not have the name of the LLC,” she said. “We ensure they are in compliance and we then provide a screenshot from the Secretary of State web site and attach it to the application.”

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8 Responses to Transparency is Clearly a Hot Topic – Forsyth County Commissioners Cast Their Votes

  1. Kristen Stevens

    December 21, 2013 at 9:00 am

    What many of us don’t understand is why anyone would vote against this transparency proposal. If creating more transparency would make the public more comfortable, then why not vote to approve? If we do happen to have a commissioner or two who know every single owner behind every single LLC, that is great for them. But it isn’t about each individual commissioner knowing… or “having a pretty good idea”. It is about ALL commissioners knowing. The commissioners knew that voting against this measure creates the appearance that there is something to hide. But they went ahead and voted against it any way. Things that make you go “hmmmmm”…..

    P.S. – where is Tam’s comment?

  2. Dave Richard

    December 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    This is just another manifestation of district-only commissioners who think they are untouchable, because as long as they keep their 1/5th happy, they likely are.

    And to heck with the other 4/5ths.

  3. Relentless

    December 25, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    The transparency proposal still has plenty of life left in its bones, and any discussion of its demise is greatly exaggerated! It will be back sooner than you think.

  4. Dave Richard

    December 29, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    And here I thought the rules were that people were not allowed to post anonymously.

    Too bad some cannot follow simple rules.

  5. Brad Wilkins

    December 30, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    from the rules page:

    “The only exception to this rule will be Authors, of articles and stories published on, who as a regular course of business write under pseudo names. Said authors may participate in the comment section using their pseudo names.

    Exceptions will be granted on a case by case basis at our discretion.”

  6. Relentless

    December 31, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    *Signs That You May Not Be As Smart As You Think*

    “The following thoughts can help you discern whether or not you are interacting intelligently, or whether you’ve just simply bought-off on your own propaganda:

    Do you find yourself in a perpetual state of debate? Do you find yourself thinking “why am I the only one who gets it?” Is it more important for you to be right than to arrive at the correct resolution to an issue, problem or opportunity? Are you known as a bitter, pessimistic or negative person? If any of these issues describe situations that hit too close to home then you may want to take a step back and do some self-evaluation.

    Do you use your intellect to intimidate and stifle others, or to encourage, inspire and motivate others? If your brilliance is polarizing as opposed to engaging, then how smart are you really?

    If an independent third party evaluated your interactions with others, what would that feedback look like? Do others see you as successful, or are you merely a legend in your own mind? What I think of myself is not nearly as important as what my family, friends, clients, and co-workers think of me. If those you surround yourself with don’t hold you in high regard, then you have no reason to.”

    by: Mike Myatt

  7. Brad Wilkins

    January 1, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    I just took the “Mike Myatt” self evaluation and guess what, I may not be as smart as I thought I was. According to the Princes Leia self evaluation, I am not as charming as I thought I was either.

    I feel some New Year’s Resolutions coming on.

    Keep it friendly folks. It’s just a news site.

  8. Relentless

    January 1, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Ok. Now that’s settled, let’s get back to the transparency in government issue.

    We actually have at least 3 Forsyth County commissioners who literally “carry water for the City of Cumming”.

    And, if you watch the Nydio of the City of Cumming 10/15/2013 Planning Board public meeting (minute 15:30)below you will actually see the city attorney ask for the names of the owners of a parcel of property under consideration for a rezoning. Incredibly, this property is owned by the family of the chairman of the Forsyth County BOC.

    Evidently the city, who calls the shots for many county projects, is not concerned with lawsuits resulting from asking for this ownership information. So, how does it come to pass that a majority of our commissioners are voting to keep F/C residents in the dark and placing our local government officials in harms way when it comes to possible conflicts of interest?

    Therefore, it is easy to deduct that the BOC is throwing up a red herring (lawsuit fears) relating to the transparency initiative, and is purposely misleading Forsyth County’s residents. The BOC is not transparent about the transparency initiative.

    The big question: Does anybody care?