Newly elected Camden County Commissioner Jim Goodman gets the distinct feeling that some of his fellow commissioners don’t want to talk about Spaceport Camden.
Goodman has tried to make a motion for the county to release all the financial information regarding the money spent on the spaceport only to be rebuffed by fellow commissioners.
The county is being sued for an alleged breach of the Georgia Open Records Act for its refusal to release spaceport related records to the public Goodman wants released.
Commission Chairman Ben Casey wants the records to remain confidential and wants new rules on how meeting agendas are set. Goodman said Casey wants at least three commissioners to approve any agenda item.
“It’s unconscionable,” he said. “I’ve made the chairman very uncomfortable. I have to have agreement from three other county commissioners if I want something on the agenda.”
Goodman said he plans to step down from the commission table at tonight’s meeting and speak as a private citizen during the public comment period.
“You can be sure there will be a reaction to this, a strong reaction,” he said.
Athens lawyer Kevin Lang, whose family owns property on Little Cumberland Island, said there are two “very significant” problems with the county’s position.
“There is no longer a pending real estate transaction, as the Union Carbide option agreement has expired and Union Carbide has publicly stated that it has no intention of selling its property to Camden County,” Lang said. “Even if there were a pending real estate transaction, the exception to Georgia Open Records Act (GORA) is only meant to protect certain limited information, which, if made public, would put the county at a competitive disadvantage in negotiating the transaction, like what they are willing to pay for the property. The county has absolutely abused this exception to GORA for eight years now, and the result is over $12 million being wasted on a project that was never commercially viable.”
Goodman said the county attorney said he could not represent him because Goodman was one of the plaintiffs in a legal battle to stop the county from spending more money on the spaceport, which was given a launch operator’s license under the condition the county close on a deal to purchase the launch site from Union Carbide.
“He won’t talk to me about any spaceport items,” he said.
Union Carbide announced it no longer plans to sell the property to the county because voters approved a referendum banning the county from spending more money on the spaceport.
Goodman also said he plans to contact state ethics officials to request an investigation into himself in an effort to expose the county’s wrongdoing.
“I’m going to self-report to get someone to look at this,” he said.
He is also asking commissioners to be more aggressive in asking for district attorneys in three different judicial circuits to file criminal charges against former Camden County Public Service Authority members who were fired for allegedly stealing millions in taxpayer money but still have not been charged.
“I’m going to insist the PSA directors move before the statute of limitations runs out,” he said. “The guilty parties need to face up.”