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20 May 2013

Two Fulton County Commissioners Have Yet to Sign Document Admitting Open Meetings Act Violation

At its 15 May 2013 meeting, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners admitted violating the state's open meetings act.

This admission stems from a meeting four Commissioners --Emma Darnell, Bill Edwards, Joan Garner and Robb Pitts-- held in February that constituted a public meeting under the Georgia open meetings act.

Fulton County’s attorney says four commissioners violated the state’s open meetings law last month when they sat together and heard residents rail against Republican efforts to reshape the county government.

“The definition of a public meeting typically turns on whether a quorum of public agency members meet, at a predetermined time, to discuss public business,” Georgia First Amendment Foundation Executive Director Hollie Manheimer said in an email. “In this case, all of those elements seem to be there, and the matters discussed are of keen interest to the citizens of Fulton County.”

Edwards, Johnny (7 March 2013). Attorney says commissioners unwittingly broke open meetings law. Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved on 20 May 2013.

According to an Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) report, Commissioner Liz Hausmann, who did not attend the February meeting in question, suggested her colleagues on the commission admit their mistake and report it to Attorney General Sam Olens to avoid sanctions from his office. Hausmann's suggestion was met with hostility and insults.

"Even if Liz Hausmann is doing a meeting up there in podunk north Fulton," Commissioner Bill Edwards told the AJC. "If I want to go, I’m going."

Last week, the Fulton County Commission passed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) admitting the four commissioners present at the February meeting, including Bill Edwards, violating the state's open meetings act. The MOU signed by Commissioners John Eaves, Joan Garner, and Robb Pitts features a pledge from Fulton County to "take all necessary and proper steps to assure compliance with each and all of the requirements of Georgia's Open Meeting Act and Open Records Act."

Two signatures are noticeably missing from the MOU. Commissioner Emma Darnell, who did not vote on admitting a violation of the Open Meetings Act, has yet to sign the MOU. And Commissioner Bill Edwards, who voted no on admitting an Open Meetings violation, has not signed the MOU either.

Georgia Unfiltered obtained a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding, which awaits approval from Attorney General Sam Olens. The MOU is posted below:

Fulton County Memo of Understanding Admitting Open Meetings Violation by Andre Walker