By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
State: Officials violated open meetings act
County must take corrective measures
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News

A Forsyth County resident and one-time political candidate said he’s happy about the response he received to his complaint that local officials were holding secret meetings.

"At least we have somebody that has some honest blood in their system and it seems to be the [Georgia’s] attorney general," Terry Sweeney said.

In response to a complaint Sweeney filed in April, the attorney general’s office has directed Forsyth County to draft corrective measures on how commissioners plan to conduct future meetings.

Sweeney contended Commissioners Pete Amos, Patrick Bell and Brian Tam had violated the Georgia Open Meetings Act in February because they assembled a quorum without public notice.

The commissioners were at Cumming City Hall for what Bell has maintained were separate and informal discussions with Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt.

No official action was taken during any of the talks, which reportedly dealt with a possible referendum on extending the 1-cent sales tax.

The tax issue has since been scheduled for a Nov. 8 referendum.

Of the winter meetings, Bell has said he was entering the building as Amos and Tam were leaving and that Commissioner Todd Levent arrived about 20 minutes later.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter sent a letter to Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard asking the county to draft corrective measures.

According to the letter, "The attorney general has made it clear that to conduct public business in such a way as to avoid meeting the quorum requirements of the open meetings act is a violation of the act itself.

"Specifically, this office views four council members meeting, together or in twos, with a design team to conduct public business without giving proper notice to the public, to be a violation of the act."

Jarrard said he expects to finalize the county’s response today, but reiterated the commissioners were "generally unaware of the others’ attendance" that day.

"I am going to alert the board and other appointed officials and make them aware of the attorney general’s concerns and request that everyone be diligent on scheduling meetings and assembling," Jarrard said.

Sweeney reportedly saw three of the five commissioners at the same time that day at city hall.

"I was more concerned about the multiple millions of the penny tax being discussed without the citizens’ input," he said. "There’s too many secrets going on in our government."

In addition to notifying the attorney general, Sweeney also filed a complaint in April with the Forsyth County Board of Ethics.

In a unanimous decision last month, the board cited lack of evidence and dismissed the complaints against the three county commissioners.

Sweeney, who unsuccessfully ran for the District 5 commission post in 2008, said he hopes his complaint will lead to change.

"They should change," he said, adding that if not, "they will get caught again."