Jonesboro City Council discusses new position behind closed doors

JONESBORO — After 45 minutes in executive session, the Jonesboro City Council voted Monday night to hire a city administrator.

The discussion never took place in an open meeting.

It was not listed on the agenda for the Monday meeting, nor was it on the agenda for the June 2 workshop meeting.

The state of Georgia’s Open Meetings Act, requires all city policy discussion to take place in open public meetings. Executive sessions can be employed to discuss personnel issues when it pertains to a specific employee.

According to the Act, governmental bodies are allowed to vote to go into a closed meeting to discuss a limited range of topics, including personnel issues, but they come with strict guidelines that Assistant State Attorney Stefan Ritter said are often violated.

He said government entities treat “personnel matters” as an all-inclusive cloak which results in a board erring on the side of caution instead of on the side of openness.

“Personnel meetings in executive session are limited to two things — discussions among the board, commission, whoever it is, discussions among those members on a specific personnel issue, or to interview candidates for an executive head,” Ritter said, adding that anything else is considered illegal.

Mayor Joy Day indicated job descriptions were discussed and that is not included in the list of items the AG’s office said can take place behind closed doors, nor is the mere creation of a position.

The new city administrator would oversee the workings of Jonesboro City Hall, said Day

“We’re going to have to hire someone to manage the day-to-day activities,” Day said.

There was much discussion among council members concerning a job description for the position. Initially, councilman Billy Powell said he would not vote to hire someone without it.

Council member Pat Sebo said she presented three possible job descriptions, but didn’t have time to make copies for all members.

“I didn’t know we would be talking about this in executive session until I got the email this afternoon,” Sebo said.

However, Day pointed out the council was only voting to approve the creation of the position.

“We don’t have to have a job description to vote to hire a city administrator,” Day said. “I wouldn’t apply for a job without a description — I would want to know if I’m going to have to slop the hogs or what.”

Day said it will be up to the council to figure out the job description. The council members will also be responsible for doing the interviews.

“The position will be advertised after council has chosen a job description which fits their criteria,” said Day in an email.

Talk of postponing the vote until an agreement on the job description came up during the meeting.

However, Sebo said the monies were already approved and the council had been discussing the hiring since November or December.

“It’s time to move forward,” Sebo said. “The more time we spend discussing it, we’ll end up in next year’s budget.”

Ultimately, the council decided to unanimously move forward.

Salary for the position has not been determined, according to Day.