Dispute over how many votes it takes to pass a resolution on the Cobb BOC

Cobb County government building sign, a vertical rectangular sign with the words "Board of Commissioners," "County Clerk," "County Manager," "County Office," "Employment," and a wheelchair entrance icon

By Caleb Groves

On Tuesday, May 12, 2024, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved a contract for the proposed transit referendum and the intent to put the transit tax on voter ballots. There was also a dispute over the meaning of a recently passed policy regarding what constitutes an adequate vote to pass a resolution.

Commissioner Keli Gambrill and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell voted against items regarding the Mobility Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (MSPLOST) proposed for the November 2024 ballot. The 30-year 1% tax would help fund projects to expand public transit across the county.

The first item Drew Raessler, Director of the Cobb Department of Transportation, presented the board with was a proposal for a contract with Kimley-Horn for ridership projections and modeling for the transit referendum.

After the board considered it, the modeling and projection project, specified to cost no more than $22,972.00, was approved in a 3-2 vote, with Gambrill and Birrell in opposition.

In addition to the contract, Raessler proposed a resolution announcing the intent to call for the referendum.

Prior to the vote, Birrell said the resolution would need a minimum of a 4-1 vote for it to pass due to a recent amendment to the board’s rules and procedures passed in March.

However, County Attorney Bill Rowling clarified that a 3-2 vote is adequate to pass the resolution; the 4-1 vote is only for the resolution to be added to the BOC’s agenda.

“So the resolution that was before you now has, I think there’s been two or three other resolutions that you’ve already approved today as well, which are merely part of the accounting business,” Rowling said.

“Yeah, so just in summary, the rule change that we made to require the four-fifths vote for passage of a resolution, that was not to cover all the resolutions,” Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said.

The rule change only applies to resolutions proposed by either the chair or commissioners, Cupid said.

Birrell and Gambrill concurred that the language in the amended policy is unclear.

“No, but it still is not clear,” Birrell said. “I know what the intent may have been, but the way it reads, it’s questioned. And I don’t support that.”

“When I made my vote back in March, it was my understanding that it applied to all resolutions,” Gambrill said. “So to come here today and have the county attorney’s office provide us their opinion on a piece of paper, which I find interesting. They’ll give us an opinion on this, but they won’t give us an opinion in writing on a rule, nor let us know outside the council that was sought.”

Sheffield said that though some commissioners may disagree with the language, the commission did adopt the policy in March.

“It’s a decision that has been discussed with commissioners,” Commissioner Monique Sheffield said. “There should be no surprise that this resolution is written the way it is, because we’ve had discussions as we do with any other agenda item before any policy changes remained.”

Economic Development

After proclaiming the week of May 6, 2024, as Cobb Economic Development Week, Cobb Economic Development Director Sabrina Wright brought forward the top three qualified firms for Cobb’s Economic Development Strategic Plan chosen by the Selection Committee to the BOC.

Birrell opposed the development plan rankings and deemed them unnecessary.

“The reason I oppose the strategic plan for your department for economic development moving forward is because I did not vote for the strategic plan for economic development for a consultant because economic development is one of the five categories in our overall county strategic plan that was developed,” Birrell said.

District 2 home rule map

Prior to approving the consent agenda, Birrell reiterated her stance against the county’s home rule map, labeling the map as “unconstitutional and illegal.”

“I voted against the amended map three times in 2022, January 25th, October 11th and October 25th,” Birrell said. “I have a duty to represent my constituents and will not have my vote suppressed as I was duly elected on November 8th, 2022.”

Watch the video of the meeting below

Caleb Groves is a Journalism student at Kennesaw State University, where he is a junior.

Originally from Minnesota, Caleb moved to Georgia with his family, where he now lives in Woodstock with his Father, Stepmom and numerous pets.

When he is not in writing, in class or coaching rock climbing, he spends his time listening to music and rock climbing both indoors and out