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County's response sought to complaint
State attorney weighs open meetings matter
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Forsyth County News


The Georgia Attorney General's Office has asked Forsyth County to answer a complaint that contends the local civil service board violated the open meetings act.

In a letter to County Attorney Ken Jarrard, dated March 9, the office gives the county 10 days to respond to the allegations and provide clarification on the issues.

"The county is in receipt of the Attorney General's letter," Jarrard said. "We treat this matter very seriously. The county will coordinate its response with the appropriate parties."

The complaint, filed March 1 by Nydia Tisdale, asserts that the county's civil service board did not give the required 24-hour meeting notice or post that notice at the meeting site for its Jan. 13 gathering.

Tisdale, a Roswell resident and political activist, also expressed concern about votes taken at that meeting to appoint a hearing officer and clerk.

According to the open meetings act, "any official action of an agency adopted, taken, or made at a meeting which is not open to the public as required by this chapter shall not be binding."

The county commission upheld the appointments made at that meeting, which Tisdale has said was "improper."

These issues will be addressed, following the county's response, through a mediation program with the attorney general's office.

According to the letter, signed by Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter, the program allows the office "to assist in resolving disputes between citizens and local government ... as a neutral party."

For any issues that can't be resolved, the letter states "either party may wish to find other avenues to solve the issues, which may include bringing an action in Superior Court."

Tisdale said she hoped the mediation program would be a learning process for all.

"I'm glad that the attorney general's office is pursuing these allegations of violations of the open meetings act," she said. "I hope that the Forsyth County Civil Service Board will become familiar with these laws and learn to abide by them."

In addition, Tisdale has since filed a complaint about a violation of notice for the March 10 meeting, stating that the address was incorrect and the meeting agenda was not posted at the site 24 hours in advance.

The attorney general's office had not yet responded as of Friday, she said.

Reached by phone, Tisdale expressed concern about the repeated potential violations of notice.

"Because we're paying a licensed lawyer $260 per hour to be legal counsel to the civil service board, he should be aware of these laws, and he should make sure his client, the civil service board, is following these laws,"

Tisdale said. "He has failed to do that."

In her complaint about the Jan. 13 meeting, Tisdale also maintained that there may be a conflict of interest for hearing officer Dana Miles, since he also serves as attorney for the city of Cumming.

The city and county have been involved in litigation in the past.

The attorney general's office said the arrangement could be a violation of county laws, but "is not an issue we will address in the mediation program."

Jarrard did not comment on that matter, but said the county plans to "focus on the discrete questions that the attorney general asked."