A sharp exchange took place at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday over District 1 Commissioner Keli Gambrill‘s recommendation to appoint Kennesaw State University professor Dr. J.C. Bradbury to the Development Authority of Cobb County (DACC).
Bradbury is a professor of Economics, Finance, & Quantitative Analysis at Kennesaw State University. One of his areas of research is sports economics, and he has been skeptical of the economic benefits to the county provided by SunTrust Park.
According to the Cobb County government website, the DACC was “Created for the purpose of developing and promoting for the public good and general welfare trade, commerce, industry, and employment opportunities in the County.”
The “Select Cobb” website of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce identifies two specific roles for the DACC.
(1) provide access to capital and to other financial incentives that would assist desirable economic development projects; and (2) market and promote Cobb County to new business.
The exchange began when BOC Chairman Michael Boyce announced that he would make a motion to delay a vote on Gambrill’s recommendation until the next BOC meeting in two weeks.
The reason he gave was that when he discussed the appointment with other commissioners he had found that he would be the swing vote, with two other commissioners voting no and two voting yes.
“Commissioner Gambrill and I had a conversation this morning, and she had some good points about some earlier votes that were taken that didn’t require me to require some additional time to think about the recommended appointments.”
“And as I thought back over the two-and-a-half years I’ve been here, this might be the first appointment where it won’t be unanimous,” he said.
“And I’m going to be the swing vote on this one,” he said. “So I just need more time to sit down with this gentleman and talk to him, because this is a very important appointment. This development authority is getting more and more attention in this current day and age. And I want to make sure that my vote is an informed vote.”
Gambrill said “I would like to make a comment that I followed procedure and policy of the board in submitting this appointment.”
“We then followed up with submitting a resume for everyone to review,” she said. “At the agenda work session yesterday there were no comments or questions until after the executive session was held, when I was told ‘you’d better walk the halls.'”
“Again, this is coming across to me as pure patronage and politics at its worst on this board,” she said.
“On April 9 of 2019, Commissioner Birrell appointed a first-time appointee to this board,” Gambrill said. “This board unanimously approved it. There was no contention, there was no discussion on the third floor.”
“All I’m asking to do is appoint someone who many on the development authority view as very controversial, and on this board consider him controversial, because he holds a different opinion than those on this board,” she said.
“That is what the voters of District 1 expect,” she said. “They expect someone with a conservative view. They expect someone that’s going to go out there and represent their interest. Not the interest of a political engine.”
Gambrill said that none of the other appointments to the board by other commissioners were questioned, and that as the newest member of the board, she was not being treated as an equal.
District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid said, “I do believe that this is being treated uniquely. And I also believe you still need three out of five for it to move forward, so it doesn’t hurt for the chairman to have opportunity to weigh in on this matter.”
“But I think that it sends a chilling effect if we’re expecting that there is unanimity on something as important as this.” she said, “Because if something is as important as the work of the development authority, we’re hoping that each person is able to bring objective thought to it based on the confidence of the person who was elected to represent their constituency.”
District 2 Commissioner Bob Ott said, “I’m going to agree with one part of what Commissioner Cupid said. There is never a time where it is wrong if a commissioner asks for more time.”
“I take a little bit of exception to trying to accuse the chairman of having other reasons for asking for more time,” he said. “If he determined that he is going to be the third vote, and he’s asking for more time, then this board needs to give any commissioner the time to do their due diligence to make a decision that they think is right. And I just think that it’s wrong to make public accusations when a commissioner asks for extra time.”
Boyce made a motion to postpone the vote two weeks until the BOC’s evening meeting on September 24. The motion passed 5-0.
After the meeting, the Courier asked Gambrill what she thought the objections were to her appointment of Bradbury.
She said, “The objection that I was given verbally yesterday was the fact that he had written some things in the MDJ (Marietta Daily Journal) that some of our commissioners did not agree with. The only thing that he has written in the MDJ that is controversial is the position that he has taken against SunTrust Park and the Braves coming to Cobb County.”
She said that the DACC considered many projects and economic incentives besides those associated with the stadium, and that his opinion on that one project does not mean that he opposes all economic incentives.
Video of the exchange
Watch the video of the discussion of the J.C. Bradbury appointment. It was extracted from the county’s youtube video of the meeting: