McDuffie County Commissioners only thought they shot down an ordinance that would have created a business license or occupation tax program.
With a 2-1 vote and one abstention during their March 2 meeting, county commissioners assumed that the program was dead. But Commissioner Fred Favors' abstention was not made because of a personal conflict of interest -- one of a small number of allowed reasons for an abstention under McDuffie County law. And that means commissioners will have to vote on the issue again.
During last week's commission meeting, Rev. Favors initially said he was not going to vote because he was "ambiguous" on the issue. He then agreed with County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton's assessment that he didn't feel he was informed enough to make a decision on the issue.
"My major concern was that the state requires counties to do certain things in terms of their business license that are calls of enforcement ... that they should be doing and not the counties," Rev. Favors said.
The absence of a majority vote from the five commissioners will bring the issue back up at the March 15 meeting.
"Fred looked at it, and he said 'Well, I guess I'll have to make my mind up before the next meeting.' So I guess he will," said Chairman Newton.
Commissioners are allowed to abstain from a vote only if voting on an issue could directly affect themselves or a relative. They are also allowed a non-vote if the issue conflicts with their religious beliefs. Rev. Favors frequently utilizes that option in the case of alcohol license votes.
According to Association County Commissioners of Georgia Attorney Jim Grubiak, no state law is in place that requires county commissioners to vote unless a conflict of interest occurs. However, he said local procedures by which the commission runs itself could include such a provision.
If approved, the Occupation Tax Ordinance would require all businesses in the unincorporated areas of McDuffie County to be licensed in order to operate. It would require a fee for each business according to the number of employees.
"I am still prayerful about that effort," Rev. Favors said of the upcoming vote. "I am concerned about the issues of those who the state might come to check on as a result of things that might have to be done and lose their livelihood as a result of it."
Commissioners, along with Planning Board Director Fred Guerrant, had spent months studying, writing and tweaking the ordinance for implementation in the county.
Several officials, including County Manager Don Norton and Sheriff Logan Marshall, had pushed for approval of the measure they say could bolster county coffers and provide law enforcement with a list of new potential problem-causing businesses.