Bulloch Local Government

Statesboro Council Tables Constituent Services Office for Congressional Rep After Councilwoman Asks ‘Why Is It Free?’

The Statesboro City Council was slated to renew a constituent services office for the congressional representative for the 12th district on Tuesday, but when the city manager could offer no answers to their questions on the issue, they voted to table it instead.

A two-year renewal on the lease for Congressman Rick Allen’s office was on Tuesday’s council agenda, as it has been done in the years past, but when Councilwoman Paulette Chavers asked ‘Why is it free?,’ councilmembers decided to table the initiative so that the city manager should seek additional information instead. 

Currently, and for the last eight years, a staffer from Congressman Rick Allen’s office has utilized an office in city hall to provide constituent services for the south end of the 12th congressional district, which encompasses nearly two dozen counties. The district recently changed due to the Census, but spans from Augusta to Statesboro down to Coffee County and back up to Dublin – roughly four hours drive time from top to bottom. 

Councilwoman Barr asked if anyone was ever in the office, to which several council members replied that someone was there quite often. Councilwoman Chavers subsequently asked ‘Why is it free?’ 

Councilman Phil Boyum then wanted to know if other cities in the district offer free rent for offices. There are district offices in Vidalia and Dublin as well. “That’s a reasonable question. Is he getting free resources across the district?”

Councilman John Riggs said, “This is not for Rick Allen, it’s for the seat,” referring to the congressional office, not the elected official himself. Mayor Jonathan McCollar noted that the office access began under Congressman John Barrow long before Allen was elected in 2014. 

City Manager Charles Penny said, “I think a lot of folks would think it would be advantageous for us to have a congressional office in our building and I think that’s probably the basis. But that is an excellent question.”

The lease agreement is for a two-year period which means that this same council, in 2020, voted to extend the same lease agreement at no cost to the office of Congressman Rick Allen. 

Penny said he didn’t know the answers to the questions council was asking, as the lease has routinely been renewed without discussion, but all of the information is available on Congressman Rick Allen’s website.

Dublin’s district office location for Allen is in City Hall and in Vidalia, that location is in the Toomb County government annex. Those local governments are not compensated for the office space.

Other smaller counties in the district do not offer an office in the city that is the county seat, nor do they offer office hours multiple days per week, as Statesboro, Dublin, and Vidalia do. Instead, the other counties only have a representative from Congressman Allen’s office available for two hours per month, usually at a location that is city or county owned. 

In Burke County, it’s the County Commission Boardroom at the courthouse, in Candler County, Metter City Hall, in Effingham County, it’s an office in the administrative complex for the county, and so on.  All of these dates, times, and locations can be found on Allen’s official website each month. 

The local governments do not assess a fee for usage of the office.

Allen’s main office is located in Augusta and that office is a full-time district office with a full staff. It is leased by a private entity and paid for with congressional funds. 

The council voted to table the matter until the next meeting when Penny could provide additional information.

More on other actions taken by the City Council on Tuesday.

Here’s what happened at the 12/6/22 Statesboro City Council Meeting
Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast.' Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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