Setting the record straight on open meetings

Published 9:26 pm Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Our obligation to the community is to keep watch over our local governments and ensure that the People’s business is conducted in the sunshine. It is an obligation we take very seriously.
Many times through the years, we have had the opportunity to urge local government to operate within the guidelines of state law relative to open meetings and open records. Many times, meetings were held behind closed doors when they should have been open to the public.
Last Tuesday’s meeting of the Decatur County Board of Commissioners was not one of those occasions.
In a story in last Wednesday’s edition, it was reported that the commission violated the Georgia Open Meetings Act by meeting behind closed doors to discuss the appointment of a new county attorney. Before entering the closed meeting, the commission cited the “personnel” exemption of the open meetings law.
The exemption allows for closed-door discussions when hiring and firing employees and public officers, but any vote must be taken in an open meeting.
While the county attorney, in the case of Decatur County, is unquestionably not an employee of the county, the attorney, in the state of Georgia, is considered a public officer. Thus, the closed meeting at last Tuesday’s Decatur County Board of Commissioners meeting was proper and did not violate the Georgia Open Meetings Law.
We are happy to set the record straight.
During that meeting, Bruce Kirbo, Jr. was chosen as the county’s next attorney. We look forward to working with Kirbo as the county moves forward.

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