Councilwoman Smith Discloses Secret Vote, Suggesting Complete Tally

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(APN) ATLANTA — In a conversation prior to Sunday’s Atlanta Pride 2010 Parade, Councilwoman Carla Smith (District 1) disclosed her vote dating back to the February 2010 Retreat regarding whether to limit public comment at all Council committees.

Smith was one of five Council Members who had still not disclosed their vote publicly, and as previously reported by APN, the vote was not detailed in the official minutes of the meeting. The non-disclosure of six Council Members’ votes as of May 2010, and the incomplete minutes, are the subject of a lawsuit between APN’s News Editor–the present writer–and the City of Atlanta, et al.

Ten months later, Smith finally told APN that she was one of the members who voted no, or not to restrict public comment at committees.

Smith is now the eighth Council Member to admit voting no, and this is consistent with the statement made to the public by Committee on Council Chairwoman Felicia Moore that the vote was 7 yeas to 8 nays.

The eight Members who voted no, according to APN’s official count, are: Carla Smith (District 1), Kwanza Hall (District 2), Cleta Winslow (District 4), Nalalyn Archibong (District 5), Yolanda Adrean (District 8), Felicia Moore (District 9), CT Martin (District 10), and Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large).

Moore and others have told APN that the vote was 7 to 8, meaning no Members abstained.

By process of elimination, the seven who voted yes, according to APN’s official count, are: Ivory Young (District 3), Alex Wan (District 6), Howard Shook (District 7), Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large), and Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large).

Of the 7, two disclosed their yes votes to APN prior to the lawsuit being filed: Bottoms and Watson.

After the filing of the lawsuit, Wan disclosed his yes vote in an interview with Georgia Voice magazine.

Shook told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper in a recent interview that he supported limiting public comment; although he did not technically use the words that he voted yes, his vote can be inferred from the comments.

In addition, Young and Sheperd both made comments in Council Committee that they supported limiting public comment; their votes can also be inferred.

Willis is the only one who has not made statements publicly regarding the matter. However, one witness at the meeting has confirmed to APN that Willis voted yes, and by process of elimination of all other 14 Members, he must have been the seventh yes.

Therefore, APN now believes that through our ten month investigation, that we have learned which Council Members wanted to limit public comment, and which ones did not.

Incidentlly, APN included the vote on public comment in its recently published 2010 Council Member Voting Scorecard, but did not give Smith credit for voting no, despite the fact that APN believed at that point she was the eighth no. In any event, APN has now revised the scorecard to give Smith credit for voting no; thus her 2010 score is 50 (instead of 25), and her cumulative score is 25 (instead of 12.5).

Yesterday, APN’s News Editor filed a 30 page Appellant Brief and a request for oral arguments in the secret vote lawsuit, which now heads to the Georgia Court of Appeals. The City of Atlanta now has 20 days to respond. The case is on the docket for January 2011. City Attorney Amber Robinson said the City would indicate in their response whether or not they desire to make oral arguments in January.

Meanwhile, APN will request anew that Municipal Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson, Council President Ceasar Mitchell, and/or Chairwoman Moore amend the minutes of the Retreat, given that members of the public now know who voted which way, but it is still not reflected in the minutes.

In addition, the City seems to have abandoned its argument that a vote never occurred or that it was a straw poll, despite comments made previously by Moore, Johnson, Wan, and Young to that effect. In the City’s own briefs in Fulton County Superior Court, the City refered to the action taken as a vote and said that the minutes included a record of all votes generally. Judge Christopher Brasher apparently did not agree with this, when he said the minutes do not state a vote occurred (the minutes refer to the vote as a poll).

Moreover, while Brasher ruled that secret votes are allowed for non-roll call votes–and this is being appealed presently at the Georgia Court of Appeals–he also ruled that citizens are obligated to construe the vote as unanimous when no members voting against the proposal or abstaining are listed.

“If the minutes are in error, perhaps they should be corrected,” Brasher wrote in his ruling. It is now more clear than ever that the vote was not unanimous, and the minutes continue to be erroneous, deceptive, and misleading to the public.

(END/2010)

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