Smith calls out conflicts on budget hearings, county EDO

Outgoing Justice addresses Nevada County Judge with concerns

By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
Over the weekend, the current Nevada County District 8 Justice George Smith announced that he has officially requested Nevada County Judge Mark Glass change the first meeting of the court’s budget committee to allow citizens and the Quorum Court a better opportunity to participate and provide input.
Last year the budget committee changed its traditional mid-morning meeting time, which was 10 a.m., to an early evening session to accommodate transparency in the budgeting process. It also allowed justices and residents who work a chance to have input in setting the budget.
Glass appointed Justices Bob Cummings, Willie Wilson and Herbert Coleman to the budget committee, which is set to meet at 10 a.m., Tuesday, November 20.
In announcing the concerns addressed to Glass, Smith presented a copy of his correspondence, saying in part, “… I am concerned about the budgeting process. Last year we had it in the evening so people (and other JPs) could attend and have input. 10 a.m. will not allow working folks and JPs who work a chance for input. Please reconsider and have the budget meetings at 4:30 or 5:30 to give time for public input. The budget members you appointed can get off work; others cannot.
“Last year’s budget meetings showed a real attempt at transparency in how the county budgets its money. Please don’t revert to the old method of having just a few set the budget for the county and then having (court members) vote on a budget (to which) they have no chance to provide their thoughts or even have seen.”
In addition, Smith called for changes to the county’s handling of the Economic Development Office’s annual budget.
“Additionally, I am requesting — as I go out the door — that the Economic Development budget be pulled out of Solid Waste (budget) and put in a separate budget item under County General, where other such expenditures go.
“I am also requesting that we do not pay the Economic Development payment until after the December meeting so we can get (a) year-end report from (Director) Mary Godwin. Thank you for your time and consideration of these requests.”
Later, in a statement Saturday, Smith said that two Nevada Justices — Bob Cummings and Curtis Johnson — “have a vested conflict of interest in regard to the economic development office; Cummings is Godwin’s brother and Johnson is on the Economic Development board of directors.
“While I respect the long tenures and degrees of expertise of both men, they should recuse themselves from any discussion and votes dealing with the Economic Development office, personnel or actions,” Smith said. “Impartiality is key in votes setting the budget.”
Smith said that at the last meeting his motion to request a monthly report on economic development activities was questioned by Cummings, who responded, saying the bylaws required a yearly report each January for the preceding year.
Smith said his motion requested monthly updates on activities which Godwin provided for months as per his request and “those stopped several months ago.” Smith’s motion to require monthly updates passed.
Smith of Rosston is wrapping up his term as District 8 Justice representing primarily parts of southern Nevada County; Chris Fore of Laneburg will assume the seat in January 2019 after winning it from Smith on November 6.

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