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Attorney general wants to hear county's side
Complaint questions officials' visit to city hall
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Forsyth County News

 

Forsyth County has been asked to give its side following a complaint that contends officials violated the open meetings act.

County resident Terry Sweeney filed the complaint, which the Georgia Attorney General’s Office received April 18.

In the complaint, Sweeney maintained that he saw a quorum, or at least three members, of the county commission at Cumming City Hall in February. The commissioners had not provided public notice or an agenda for a meeting.

Commissioners Pete Amos, Patrick Bell and Brian Tam are named in the complaint.

The county has 10 days to respond to the allegations, according to the letter dated April 19 from Stefan Ritter, senior assistant attorney general.

The letter also states that the attorney general may use his authority to enforce the open meetings act to establish a mediation program “to assist in resolving disputes between citizens and local governments.”

County Attorney Ken Jarrard confirmed the local government has received the letter.

“Forsyth County takes any complaint regarding the open meetings act very seriously and will provide the attorney general with timely feedback,” Jarrard said.

According to the act, the gathering of a quorum for a meeting without due public notice is a violation.

A meeting is defined as “a designated time and place at which any public matter, official business, or policy to the governing body are to be formulated, presented or discussed.”

The act continues: “The assembling together of a quorum ... for the purposes of meeting the governing bodies, officers, agents, or employees of other agencies at places outside the geographical jurisdiction of an agency and at which no final official action is to be taken shall not be deemed a ‘meeting.’”

Sweeney, who in 2008 ran unsuccessfully for the District 5 post on the county commission, did not say in his complaint why the commissioners were at city hall.

He also did not indicate whether they took any official action.

Bell has said he, Tam, Amos and Commissioner Todd Levent went to city hall for separate, informal talks with Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt about a possible referendum on extending the 1 percent sales tax.

He couldn't recall if any of the city council members attended.

In a separate matter, Sweeney has filed complaints -- one each for Amos, Bell and Tam -- on the same issue with the Forsyth County Ethics Board.

The ethics board could discuss the matter at its next meeting, which is set for May 19.

The complaints were filed prior to the commission's recent changes to the local ethics ordinance. As a result, they will not be subject to any penalties if eventually deemed frivolous.