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Barrow sets guidelines for dealing with media

WINDER -- The Barrow County Commission took a stride at its meeting Tuesday night toward remaining better informed of interaction with the media.

Unanimously passed was Commissioner Ben Hendrix' resolution to institute his proposed one-page media contact form. Within 24 hours of involvement with the media, county employees must complete the form detailing what interaction they had. The form will be disseminated among commissioners, who have felt at times uninformed about employees', and even other commissioners', involvement with the media.

"People ask me, 'What's going on in the county?' and I say, 'I don't know; I haven't read the newspapers yet," Commissioner Larry Joe Wilburn said, insisting he wasn't joking.

Hendrix said, "I've found out things on the streets that happened a week before I heard about them. I feel as a commissioner I should have heard about it before hearing about it from someone on the streets."

Hendrix' resolution initially proposed that all requests from the media be forwarded to department directors and funneled through County Clerk Michelle Sims. At the suggestion of County Attorney Angie Davis, the motion was modified slightly to allow employees to handle media inquiries without involving directors. Only complex media inquiries, such as open records requests, need involve directors or Sims.

"I'm not trying to handcuff department heads," Hendrix explained. "I want this board to have information, not several days later."

Separately, the commission announced after executive session it was re-instituting its search for a new fire chief to replace Donald Towne, whom it fired after his arrest for suspected theft of cable television services in Grady County.