Polk County Commission Work Session February 2018

Attorneys who are working on litigation against drugmakers over the impact suffered by local and state governments from opioid addiction and abuse spoke to County Commissioners on Monday about the steps they would have to take to join a class action suit. (Kevin Myrick/SJ)

The County Commission spent several hours hearing citizens and going through committee reports, but kept their regular session much briefer with only a small amount of items needing a vote.

Commissioners moved through their agenda in less than 30 minutes for their February regular session, giving unanimous votes on each item brought before them.

That included the approval of counting time accrued by a former part time employee that now works full time in as a Magistrate Court Judge Christy Garner, who requested years she worked previously be counted back in June 2016, and has finally gotten through the stages of paperwork.

Commissioner Chuck Thaxton asked why Garner was being given the chance to count the hours toward her retirement when no part time employees for the county receive any benefits at all.

The reply was offered by Commissioner Scotty Tillery, who explained that in Garner’s situation as a magistrate court judge, she worked more than normal positions and had her salary not been paid through grants, she likely would have been considered a full time staffer anyhow.

She’ll get three years worth of retirement added toward her benefits through the program used by employees.

Additionally, commissioners approved a new intergovernmental agreement on for incentives provided to industries or companies who are being courted by development officials, and approved an annual agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey for stream water monitoring, totaling $4,755.

Commissioners also gave their approval to a resolution that allows Polk School District to move forward with bond purchases, and to put in place a new airport consultant to replace CDM Smith, who previously held the role.

County Manager Matt Denton said a loss of key personnel at their former company prompted the Commission to choose between three others up for the job, and settled on an agreement with Holt Consulting Company, Inc., to take on the role. The consultant firm works with the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Aviation division on projects, like the clearing of trees at Cornelius Moore Field based on new flight path requirements put in place by the FAA.

One item added to the agenda via amendment at the beginning of the meeting was a resolution to move forward on seeing what attorneys might be able to produce if the county participates in class action litigation being put together against the makers of opioids.

Attorneys from Brinson, Askew and Berry are working with others to put together a lawsuit against pharmaceutical manufacturers for the role they’ve played in the opioid addiction epidemic, which has claimed lives and cost taxpayers untold millions of dollars in fees generated by Public Safety officials trying to save lives and curtail abuse of prescription drugs.

The commission agreed to take the first step by approving a resolution to allow attorneys putting together the lawsuit to include Polk County in the first round of work, but doesn’t tie the county to the suit just yet.

Officials will likely have to gather numbers for lawyers to use in showing the impact opioids had on Polk County in the past.

Commissioner Jose Iglesias did seek in his questions over the issue to find out what the position of ACCG, or the Association of County Commissions in Georgia, had to say about the lawsuits. Denton reported that as far as he knew, they had no position about the suits.

Iglesias requested that they might wait to vote until ACCG provided a position, but after some discussion approved it with the rest of the board.

The resolution additionally doesn’t commit the county to having Brinson, Askew and Berry represent them on the case, only to explore the options available to the county should the litigation be filed in court. No cost will be incurred up front, and the law firm only collects a portion of any monetary awards should plaintiffs win the case.