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Tempers flare at commission meeting

Mix a severe budget shortfall with a dash of politics one week before a heated election and you have the perfect recipe for controversy and that is exactly what was on the menu at the Lamar County commission meeting July 13. The county has cut over $500,000 from its budget and must find $800,000 in additional cuts. Incumbent commissioners George Brown and Bennie Horton face heated battles to hold onto their seats in next Tuesday’s general primary. So, the mood was tense. Brown introduced three ordinances for first reading. The third was an open effort to strip away the authority of the county administrator and commission chairman to hire, fire, promote employees or give raises to employees. Chairman Jay Matthews said Brown was seeking personal power. “You want more control. You want to micromanage the county,” he charged. Brown agreed that was his motivation, to give the commission more control. In the end, the first reading of the ordinance was approved with commissioner Nancy Thrash opposed. Matthews said county administrator Wayne Patterson goes above and beyond the call of duty to keep the commissioners informed. He also defended his decisions and his right to make them. ’We have a code. It gives me certain authority. If they don’t like how I use those authorities, the citizens can vote me out. That is why we have elections,” Matthews said. Numerous county employees, fearful of employment cuts, were in attendance at the meeting.

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