Six Council Members Served with Interrogatories after Secret Vote
(APN) ATLANTA — Six Members of the City Council of Atlanta who failed to disclose their vote in the unrecorded, secret poll on public comment, were served, by way of their attorneys, with a first set of interrogatories, or questions which they are required to answer, on Monday, June 07, 2010.
The six Members who received the interrogatories are Carla Smith (District 1), Ivory Lee Young (District 3), Alex Wan (District 6), Howard Shook (District 7), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), and Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large).
As previously reported in an ongoing series by the Atlanta Progressive News, APN’s editor–the present writer–has filed a civil lawsuit seeking Declaratory and Injunctive Relief–against the City, certain Council Members, and the Municipal Clerk, in Fulton County Superior Court.
The case number is 2010-CV185775. The case is before Judge Christopher Brasher.
A copy of the lawsuit in PDF format was posted by the Georgia Voice magazine at http://www.thegavoice.com/Temp/APNlawsuit.pdf.
Previously, the defendants were served with the initial complaint by the Sheriff on May 24, 2010, and they have 30 days from that date in which to respond. That leaves with them a little more than a week left to respond to the complaint itself.
The six Council Members have 45 days from the date of service of the interrogatories, or from June 07, to answer the questions posed.
APN’s editor attempted to serve official copies of the interrogatories upon an attorney for the six Members at the June 07 meeting of the Full Council during public comment. However, Council President Mitchell refused to accept the documents.
APN’s editor then went to the City’s law department, where a legal clerk, Trina Windfield, signed for and accepted the documents on behalf of two attorneys she said were handling the case, Amber Robinson and Jerry Deloach.
APN’s editor then filed six Certificates of Service with the Court.
The City and other defendants have so far failed to respond in any way to the lawsuit, city attorneys have not even communicated to APN’s editor to identify themselves as the attorneys handling the case, nor have Robinson or Deloach responded to a written message left with Windfield on June 07 requesting a telephone call.
APN’s editor also used the public comment portion of the meeting to address the previous claims by Council Member Alex Wan that APN’s editor was bullying and harassing him.
A copy of the remarks are posted on the website, Youtube!, and are available below:
The lawsuit argues the Defendants failed to comply with the Georgia Open Meetings Act by taking a secret vote at the February 2010 Retreat at the Georgia Aquarium over whether to limit public comment in all Committee meetings.
Council Members, especially Ivory Lee Young and Alex Wan, have argued that they have the right to take a vote in secret, by calling it a straw poll. In this case, the Council voted on a proposal of whether to establish limiting public comment as a priority of the Committee on Council for 2010.
The Council did not record which members voted against the proposal or abstained, as required by the Georgia OMA for non-roll call votes.
Wan disclosed his vote to Georgia Voice magazine after the lawsuit was filed, but was still served interrogatories so that he could provide a written record of his vote for the ultimate purpose of having the incomplete Retreat minutes to be amended with all fifteen votes, or at least the 8 voting against the proposal.
Three Members have reported voting yes, including Wan [to Georgia Voice but not to APN], Keisha Bottoms (District 11), and Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large).
In addition, seven Members have reported voting no: Kwanza Hall (District 2), Cleta Winslow (District 4), Natalyn Archibong (District 5), Yolanda Adrean (District 8), Felicia Moore (District 9), C.T. Martin (District 10), and Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large).
Moore and others have stated that the vote was 7 to 8. Therefore, one of the remaining Furtive Five must have been a no vote; the other four must have been yes votes. APN suspects that either Smith or Shook were the one unknown no vote.
1. Did you participate in the discussion during lunchtime on February 19, 2010, at the Council Retreat at the Georgia Aquarium regarding whether Council Members “wanted to amend the current governing Code Section 2-136 entitled Remarks from the Public, to set uniform time limits/rules for public comment at committee meetings” (as is described in the official minutes of the Retreat)?
2. According to Councilwoman Felicia Moore, Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson, the law department, and the official minutes, Councilwoman Moore polled Members regarding whether they wanted to pursue changing the rules. Did you participate in the poll?
3. Did you raise your hand or otherwise indicate that “yes,” you wanted the Committee on Council to draft new rules?
4. Did you raise your hand or otherwise indicate that “no,” you wanted to keep the current rules in place?
5. Did you abstain from participating in the poll?
6. Please describe in detail any and all conversations, sounds, words, utterances, speech, or noises made by the Council Members during this discussion, including statements made by Council Members specifically regarding the issue of limiting public comment. In other words, what did you and other Council Members individually state regarding the issue of limiting public comment?
7. Please describe your reasoning for taking the position that you took in the poll.
8. Were you aware that the individual votes of each member were not being recorded?
9. Were you aware that the individual votes of each member would not be listed in the minutes?
10. Do you recall any conversations between Council Members, Council President Ceasar Mitchell, and/or Clerk Johnson prior to, during, or after the poll regarding whether or not the individual vote breakdown of the poll would be recorded?
11. If yes to the above question, please describe the details of any and all conversations referenced in the preceding question, including (a) why it was decided that the vote details would not be recorded; (b) why it was believed that the vote details did not need to be recorded; and (c) what laws, policies, or procedures were relied upon, if any, in reaching that decision.
12. Were you individually in support of the decision to not record the full details of the poll?
13. If yes to the above question, why? Or, if no, why not?
14. Why did you fail to respond to emails sent to your office on April 30, May 04, and May 09, 2010, by Plaintiff, requesting that you state how you voted?
15. Have you participated with other Council Members, in any other votes or polls, where a quorum of the Full Council or a Council Committee was present, whereby the details of the vote or poll were concealed, not recorded, or excluded from the official record of the Full Council or Committee meeting?
16. If yes to the above question, please list and describe any and all such votes or polls in full.
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