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Commissioner Copeland makes the case to rehire former county attorney

Grady County Administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, requested last week and received the county commission’s blessing to rescind a previous board vote to solicit proposals for legal services for 2019 and instead authorized the administrator to negotiate with local attorneys and bring back a recommendation to the board.
At its Nov. 6 meeting, the board decided to notify Hall Booth Smith, which currently serves as the county attorney, that it would be ending its agreement with the firm as of Dec. 31, 2018.
Through September 2018, the county has spent $97,707.02 in legal fees charged by Hall Booth Smith, which is on track to be more than double what was spent on county attorney fees in 2017.
Last Tuesday night, following the unanimous decision not to issue a Request for Proposals for legal services, Commissioner LaFaye Copeland requested the opportunity to address the board.
Commissioner Copeland said that her vote to hire Hall Booth Smith in December 2017 was a “mistake.”
“I was very ill in 2017 and although I was able to make most of the regular meetings, there were called meetings that I did not make because of my illness. I was mislead a lot on the hiring of Hall Booth Smith. They didn’t bring to the table what was presented as facts to us,” Commissioner Copeland said.
She said due to being ill she had not been able to do her “homework” and instead listened to “others” in making her decision to make a change from former county attorney Kevin S. Cauley, who had served for nearly two decades as the county legal counsel.
“I didn’t give him (Cauley) a fair shake. If I knew what I know now and had it to do all over again I would have voted to keep him (Cauley) here,” Commissioner Copeland said.
She said that some may have concerns about going backwards, but she said going back is not always bad and in this case going back would be for “goodness.”
“I’m publicly telling you now, that I going to support Kevin (Cauley) if he wants to come back as our attorney. That is my vote. My decision to hire Hall Booth was not based on the whole truth and I want that in the record,” she added.
Cauley was unceremoniously relieved of his appointment as county attorney during a special called meeting held on Dec. 29, 2017 on a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners T.D. David and Keith Moye voting to keep Cauley as the county attorney and Chairman Ray Prince and Commissioners LaFaye Copeland and June Knight voting to hire Hall Booth Smith as county attorney for 2018.
County officials have said they want to select a new attorney who will take over Jan. 1 and transition from Hall Booth Smith.

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