‘Kitchen’ cleanup: Private advisers nothing new for public officials
by Joe Kirby, Otis A. Brumby III and Lee B. Garrett, - Around Town Columnists
June 10, 2014 04:00 AM | 4282 views | 3 3 comments | 51 51 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MERRIAM-WEBSTER defines “kitchen cabinet” as “an informal group of advisers to one in a position of power (as the head of a government).”

Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee defines it as a small group with strong ties to the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and local Community Improvement Districts he meets with informally on a monthly basis at the swank Georgian Club.

A pair of self-styled investigative journalists, Kevin Schmidt and Justin Hayes, posted a report on Lee’s kitchen cabinet last week on their website that was then recounted in Saturday’s Around Town.

So who are Schmidt and Hayes?

Schmidt is a 2006 graduate of Pope High School, earned a B.S. in political science from Kennesaw State University and a Master’s Degree in political science from the University of Georgia in 2012. He’s now an investigative analyst and social media editor for the Cause of Action website.

Hayes is from Marietta, has a B.S. in political science from KSU and a Master’s in mass communication from the University of Florida. He’s a former box-office worker at the old Theatre in the Square in Marietta.

Both now live in Washington, D.C.

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ACCORDING to Schmidt and Hayes, and confirmed by Lee, his cabinet consists of Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chair Ben Mathis; Futren Corp. owner Jim Rhoden, who oversees The Georgia Club; Council for Quality Growth CEO Michael Paris; retired Caraustar Industries senior VP Bob Prillaman; and Town Center CID communications director Mary Lou Stephens.

Such names come as little surprise. Cobb Commission chairmen historically have had close ties with the local business community and the Chamber going back decades. Even Bill Byrne, who now is running for the District 1 seat on the Commission as what amounts to “the anti-Chamber” candidate, had close ties to the Chamber and its leadership during his long tenure as commission chairman in the 1990s. And various Chamber mainstays and developers were dependable contributors to his political coffers during those days.

Byrne wasted no time latching on to Schmidt and Hayes, posting a link to their website on his campaign website over the weekend.

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LEE ALSO NOTED to Around Town that he meets regularly with a variety of other local officials, elected and otherwise, including Cobb GOP Chairman Joe Dendy, Georgia Tea Party Chairman J.D. Van Brink, Cobb NAACP President Deane Bonner and leaders of the East Cobb Civic Association.

Would the county be better served if Lee did not have a circle of close advisors, and if he did not sample public opinion in a variety of other ways? Would it be better served if the chairman got his directions from “on high,” seeing little or no need to consult with anyone?

Around Town will go on the record that Cobb is better served by having officials who are in touch with public opinion, even if at times they choose to make decisions that run counter to that opinion.

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IS THERE anything suspicious about having an unofficial “kitchen cabinet” running parallel to the “parlor,” or official, cabinet? No. They’ve been a staple of the White House and other levels of government. The term was coined by opponents of President Andrew Jackson in the early 1830s as he moved to dismiss allies of John C. Calhoun from his official cabinet. Members of kitchen cabinets typically include an office-holder’s most trusted advisers, be they fellow elected officials, business leaders, family members or just old friends. “Membership” in such cabinets or advisory groups is rarely announced by the participants.

Kitchen cabinets are not subject to the sunshine laws, except in the unlikely case such a cabinet includes a quorum, or voting majority, of a given elected body. Critics can complain that much government business is discussed at such meetings, and they are no doubt correct. But the alternative would be to pass laws requiring that any conversation between a public official and anyone else be required to be open to the public. Don’t hold your breath on that one. The courts and public opinion have long held that individual public officials are entitled to private counsel.

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MORE POLITICS: Jack Kingston is positioning himself as the conservative in the Republican Primary Runoff race against the more moderate David Perdue. So in that respect, last week’s endorsement by Gingrey — who boasts one of the most consistently conservative voting records in Congress — can only help.

Gingrey told those at a joint press conference at Marietta’s Strand Theatre on Wednesday his decision to support Kingston was made easy by what he heard from his own supporters.

“I have not heard from one single (former) supporter who said they support (Perdue). Not one. Nada. That really influcenced my decision,” he said.

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AMONG the 50 or people on hand for the event were former Cobb Commission Chairman Earl Smith, Michael Paris, S.A. White Oil head Kim Gresh, Cobb Solicitor General Barry Morgan and Kennesaw City Councilman Leonard Church.

Kingston, praising Gingrey (an OB/GYN by profession), said he didn’t know the precise number of babies Gingrey had delivered, but that there were a lot of them.

“Fifty-two hundred,” Gingrey interjected, quickly adding, “But who’s counting?”

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ENDORSEMENTS are continuing to roll in in the upcoming runoff election for the July 22 Republican Primary Runoff for the 11th Congressional District seat.

Retired longtime Cobb Sheriff Bill Hutson on Thursday endorsed Barry Loudermilk of Cartersville, who was the leading vote-getter in the May 20 primary.

On the other hand, current Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren, one of Cobb’s most consistenly popular elected officials, has endorsed Loudermilk’s runoff opponent, former Congresman Bob Barr of Smyrna.

On Monday, Barr announced the endorsement of Holly Springs police Chief Ken Ball, who previously was a longtime officer in the Marietta Police Department.

Also endorsing Barr Monday was retired Vietnam chopper pilot Bill Stanley of east Cobb, who until recently chaired the Veterans for Tricia Pridemore for Congress Committee.

“It is important we have someone who understands foreign policy and national defense, especially given recent actions by President Obama,” Stanley said. “Barr is the only candidate strong enough to stand up to Obama and hold him accountable.”

Pridemore failed to make the runoff for the 11th and has not made an endorsement in the runoff.

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EXPECT A BIGGER CROWD than usual at Saturday’s annual commemoration of the death of Confederate Gen./Episcopal Bishop Leonidas Polk atop Pine Mountain in west Cobb. The ceremony will mark the 150th anniversary of the day Polk was struck and killed by a Union artillery shell (fired at the direction of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman) while on a reconnaissance inspection along with other Rebel brass.

The spot where Polk fell was marked with an obelisk by Confederate veterans after the war and now is owned by local attorney Fred Bentley Sr.

The 10:30 a.m. ceremony is sponsored by the Lt. General Leonidas Polk Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and will take place a few steps off Beaumont Drive in Kennesaw. If using GPS, the closest address is 1436 Beaumont.

The event will include the initiation of Polk’s great-great grandson, Francis Devereaux Polk IV, into the SCV, reports event spokesman Martin O’Toole of Marietta. The event will conclude with a rifle volley fired by Confederate reenactors.

The public is invited to the event, although parking will be at a premium.

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BRAVES WATCH: Last Tuesday’s invitation-only luncheon hosted by Vinings Bank for Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz attracted an SRO crowd — the biggest such lunch at the bank since the time President Dan Oliver lined up legendary UGA Bulldog running back Herschel Walker as speaker a couple years back.

During the introductions, Oliver noted Marietta insurance exec T.W. Lord, who was at the luncheon, had been a season-ticket holder since 1969. That prompted a smiling Schuerholz to quickly rise and give Lord a one-man standing ovation.

Comments
(3)
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John Ford
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June 10, 2014
Think the bigger question is who is paying Schmidt and Hayes....
Missed the mark.
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June 10, 2014
The existence of the kitchen cabinet the issue. That type of communication is probably a good thing.

Rather the REAL CONCERN is Mr. Lee's obvious attempt to keep a legal open record request difficult if not impossible to locate by his use of a non-county email address. Under normal conditions, this type of communication is probably benign. However, in light of Mr. Lee's recent highly questionable behavior - maybe not such a good thing.

For example, Lee's recent secretive discussions with only one or two commissioners at a time to discuss the Braves move(avoiding a quorum). Or his hiring of his private political consulting firm to do county government work. And Lee's obvious collusion with a small group of chamber members (John L.) to eliminated the speaking time of the opposition at a recent commission meeting.

That is the problem. Can't wait for the attorney general to weigh-in.

just one question
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June 10, 2014
So all the conservatives are rushing to endorse Kingston but I do have one question: why has no one talked about his accomplishments while in the House? What's up with the silence. Frankly, Perdue is a success, has accomplished something in the business world and can also, I am convinced, take care of Ms. Nunn in the upcoming election. On the other hand, she will eat Mr. Kingston and his record or lack thereof, for breakfast.
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