PORTERDALE -- For the second week in a row the Porterdale City Council has been unable to hold a meeting due to lack of a quorum, and it isn't clear when the council will be able to assemble enough members to conduct city business.
Monday night's makeup meeting was cancelled after Councilwoman Linda Finger failed to attend. One other seat on the council is already vacant due to the resignation of Arline Chapman, who resigned to run for mayor and was elected last week. With two absences the council did not have a quorum.
Finger said she did not attend Monday's meeting in order to avoid discussion that was "petty and childish."
"I'm not one to ever miss meetings," Finger said Tuesday, "but I didn't feel like last night was going to be a productive meeting."
Last week's council meeting was canceled due to the vacant Post 3 seat and after Councilman Robert Foxworth failed to attend. Foxworth said he had injured his back and had been prescribed painkillers and muscle relaxers by his doctor. In addition, Post 4 Councilman Mike Harper was absent last week. He said he decided not to attend after learning that Foxworth's absence would mean the council would not have a quorum.
Foxworth said Monday night he didn't believe he owed anyone an explanation about his absence from last week's meeting, noting that he has missed only a few meetings during his eight years on the council.
"If somebody wants to criticize me in the newspaper, they can shove it!" he said.
At last week's meeting resident Nancy Naya implied that Foxworth deliberately was absent in order to avoid the scheduled discussion of a contract with Porterdale Police Sgt. Jason Cripps for operation of a K-9 program for the Police Department. Naya called Foxworth's absence a "sabotage thing."
There was some speculation Monday night that Tim Savage, elected last week to fill Chapman's Post 3 seat, would attend and be sworn in, which would have given the council a quorum. He did not attend.
Even if Savage is sworn in some time this week, next Monday's rescheduled meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, is also likely to be canceled. Councilmember Lowell Chambers said Monday night that he had prior plans and would not be able to attend. Finger said Tuesday that she will have family in town for the holiday and would not attend, as well.
As for Monday's makeup meeting, Finger said that she didn't attend because she wanted to avoid controversy over the nonprofit CARE program that she founded to help the residents of Porterdale. CARE, which stands for Community Assistance Relief Effort, helps residents in need with utility payments, winter coats and other emergency assistance.
"I'm really just tired," she said. "I have fought with Robert for two years over the CARE program. I have continually had to fight with him to make this work, not because I was doing anything wrong. It is because he has something personal against me.
"My attitude right now is that (Foxworth) was voted out and I don't have to work with (him) anymore," she added.
Finger said she knew that Darlene Savage, who challenged her unsuccessfully for the Post 2 seat, and Foxworth, who lost the Post 1 election, would speak out against CARE Monday night because the organization has used the city copier and paper for its fliers and mailed them to residents in the city water bills.
"If they lost the election, why are they still in there screaming and crying and being sore losers," she said Tuesday.
Darlene Savage did question CARE's use of city resources to support the CARE program at the meeting Monday night, pointing out that residents pay the city 25 cents per copy while CARE has not paid for its copies.
City Manager Bob Thomson said he had been advised by the city attorney that as long as the fliers were a community interest item, the use of city resources to mail the fliers was acceptable.
The city mails about 600 water bills per month.
However, Thomson said Tuesday he was advised by an attorney at the Georgia Municipal Association that inserting fliers from any organization into city water bills would be in violation of the gratuities clause in the Georgia Code.
Thomson said he was told that only a brief message containing information for those who were having trouble paying their water bill could be included with the bills. He said no organization's fliers would be included with water bills in the future.
Finger was angry Tuesday when contacted about the law prohibiting fliers from being inserted in government mailings.
"I think it's actually a crock," she said. "I am so irritated about this because all CARE has done is help people, and even the fact that this question was brought up is disgusting and stupid."
Finger said if the mailings were illegal she would respect that. However, she questioned why City Attorney Tim Chambers did not give the same advice.
"We pay big bucks to a city attorney, and he sat right there and he let us make this motion and vote unanimously to allow city organizations' fliers in our water bills," Finger said.
"Because of two disgruntled losers this has come up," Finger said, adding that CARE will continue to do its work even though volunteers will have to find other means to distribute information.
Foxworth said Monday night that CARE is a "great program," but he was not in favor of nonprofit organizations using taxpayer money to benefit the nonprofit. He said he heard the same concerns expressed by residents during his campaign.
"If it's a nonprofit organization, let it fund itself," he said.
About a dozen city residents were at the meeting, and several spoke in favor of allowing CARE to use city resources for its fliers.
Finger maintained Tuesday that since the city leases its copy machine, which includes ink cartridges, there is no extra cost for the city to copy CARE's fliers.
"The city has been supplying the paper, but I certainly would have no problem with CARE paying for the paper," she said.
Finger also said she does not believe that there is any conflict of interest arising from her involvement in CARE and her service on the City Council. Finger said although she founded the organization and serves as its director, CARE is run by a committee.