JONESBORO Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson asked a Superior Court judge this week to throw out several decisions made by the county’s Board of Commissioners in late 2012 because of possible violations of the state’s sunshine law.
Lawson filed a motion in court to force the county commission to adhere to Georgia’s Open Meetings Act late Monday. In the motion, she asks Judge Geronda Carter for “a declaration that certain actions and/or resolutions of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners are not binding.”
The motion outlines 18 decisions made by the commission from October until December which were not included on meeting agendas released to the public beforehand. The state’s open meetings law says the agenda must be made available to the public before the meeting takes place, but it does allow the commission to add items “which become necessary to address during the course of the meeting.”
Lawson also cites county ordinance 2007-64, Section 2-35-01, which mandated items can be added to an agenda at the last minute only if they are considered “urgent business matters.”
“Between Oct. 2, 2012, and Dec. 18, 2012, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners held nine regular meetings,” Lawson’s motion states. “At every single meeting, they had at least one, but usually more, add-ons to the agenda that were requested to be added during the pre-meeting.
“The minutes do not reflect for what ‘urgent business matter’ these items were added, nor why it became necessary to add these items to the agenda. A failure to post the full agenda left the public unaware of the official business the Clayton County Board of Commissioners was about to conduct.”
By waiting until just before 4 p.m. Monday to file the motion, Lawson avoided a situation where the commission could have circumvented the filing by holding a called meeting and revoting on the 18 resolutions and appointments before former Chairman Eldrin Bell and former Vice-Chairman Wole Ralph left office.
The Open Meetings Law gave Lawson up to 90 days to contest action taken by the commission, according to the motion filed in court.
Bell said he had not seen the motion, but he offered conflicting statements on whether the commission violated state and county laws under his leadership.
“Last-minute agenda items violated our rules,” he said at one point. However, when he was asked if that statement meant Lawson’s assertions were correct, he said, “Mmmmmm, I don’t — I don’t know what she said so I can’t speak to that.”
He later added, “To the extent that we violated the law, I think that is something that has to be very thoughtfully gone over by the justices.”
Bell said he “often voted against last-minute agenda items,” but post summary minutes from the nine meetings in question show the former chairman voted with his colleagues to add all the last-minute items to their respective meeting agendas.
Interim County Attorney Jack Hancock was expected to brief commissioners on the civil action during an executive session Wednesday night, said Chairman Jeff Turner as he went into the closed-door meeting. Turner said he did not know enough about the motion to comment on it, but he promised to stop the practice of adding non-urgent items to meeting agendas at the last minute.
The actions Lawson is seeking to get thrown out include:
• The approval of Resolution 2012-205 on Oct. 2. The resolution authorized the county to enter a contract with Motorola Solutions, Inc. to maintain E-911 communications. The resolution does not state the monetary value of the contract.
• The appointments of Tim Carter, Gabrielle Starr, Kysha McPherson, Bob Reynolds and Najeebah Butler to the Community Service Board on Oct. 2.
• The appointment of Rodney Givens to the Solid Waste Management Authority Board on Oct. 9.
• The approval of Resolution 2012-215 on Oct. 16. The resolution authorized the county to accept 1,792 square feet of right-of-way as a donation from Al-Madinah, LLC. The land sits on 0.041 acres of property located at the corner of Crystal Lake Road and Riverdale Road in Riverdale.
• The approval of Resolution 2012-216 on Oct. 16. The resolution authorized the county to enter into a real estate sales contract to “complete the settlement of the matter of Claude F. Perry, Sr., et al. v. Clayton County.” The resolution states the county agreed to purchase an unspecified property located at 211 Deacon Ave., in Hapeville for $120,000 as part of the settlement.
• The approval of Resolution 2012-217 on Oct. 16. The resolution authorized the county to enter a license agreement with the U.S. Secretary of the Army to use Fort Gillem as the site of an emergency vehicles operations course for the Clayton County Police Department.
• The approval of Resolution 2012-230 on Nov. 6. The resolution authorized the county to enter a settlement agreement in the civil lawsuit case of CN Crag Charles, Inc., v. Clayton County, Georgia. The terms of the settlement agreement are not outlined in the resolution.
• The appointment of Sylvia Wright to the Clayton County Water Authority Board on Nov. 13.
• The approval of Resolution 2012-247 on Nov. 20. The resolution gave the county permission to let Southern Regional Medical Center film a commercial at Flat Shoals Park in Riverdale in late November.
• The appointment of Paul Redding to the Clayton County Development Authority on Dec. 4.
• The approval of Budget Amendment 2-29 on Dec. 4. The amendment allocated $10,000 to Arts Clayton to help fund an upcoming Gee’s Bend Quilt exhibit at the arts group’s gallery in Jonesboro.
• The approval of Resolution 2012-267 on Dec. 11. The resolution gave the Clayton County Probate Court to expand to the third floor of the Annex Building at the Historic Clayton County Courthouse. The probate court had been located in the annex’s basement and the third floor was vacated when Juvenile Court moved to a new facility adjacent to the Harold R. Banke Justice Center.
• The approval of Resolution 2012-272 on Dec. 18. The resolution gave the county permission to trade adjacent pieces of property with Stephens MDS, LP for an unspecified road-straightening project.
• The approval of Resolution 2012-273 on Dec. 18. The resolution gave the county permission to enter into a settlement agreement involving claims stemming from an “employment matter” involving a former county employee named Jerald Parks. The terms of the agreement are not listed in the resolution.
• The appointment of Synamon Baldwin to the Tax Assessor Board on Dec. 18.
• The appointment of Kevin Lewis, Casey Watts and Keith Parker to the Zoning Advisory Group Board on Dec. 18.
• The appointment of Mary Moen and Deborah Lazarus to the Regional Mental Health Board on Dec. 18.
• The appointment of George Sligh to the Elections Board on Dec. 18.