Hearing Monday in Atlanta Council Closed Briefings Lawsuit

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(APN) ATLANTA — On Monday, August 08, 2011, there will be a hearing before Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter in the case concerning the City Council of Atlanta’s practice of holding seven closed-door Committee Briefings every two weeks and not allowing in the public.

 

The hearing will begin at 10am, and at Fulton County Superior Court, Courtroom 4D, Justice Center Tower, 185 Central Avenue, S.W., Atlanta, Georgia.
This is a hearing “to determine the status of this matter and set deadlines to govern the future progress of this case.”

Matthew Cardinale (pro se), News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News–the present writer–filed this, a second Open Meetings Act lawsuit against the City of Atlanta in May 2011. The City of Atlanta declined to file a Motion to Dismiss, so the case is now in discovery.

On July 26, 2011, the present writer filed an extensive first round of discovery against the City of Atlanta, including seven sets of interrogatories to the seven respective Council Committee Chairs: Yolanda Adrean (District 8), Natalyn Archibong (District 5), CT Martin (District 10), Felicia Moore (District 9), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large), and Ivory Young (District 3).

Each set of interrogatories included just short of fifty questions, including sub-parts, which is the maximum number of questions per person allowed under law.

Interrogatories included questions about which Briefings each Committee Chair attended, whether they had a quorum, whether they were open to the public, whether they conducted the Briefings, what substantive discussion occurred at the Briefings, what members of the public have requested entry to Briefings, how the Briefings handle a quorum and notify the public of a quorum, what written records are kept of the Briefings, each Chair’s opinions about the open or closed status of the Briefings, internal policies regarding Briefings, and communications regarding Briefings.

The interrogatories also ask about new violations which have occurred since the filing of this lawsuit in May 2011, including the closed-door pension compromise discussion, and other similar violations.

The first round of discovery also included a Request for Production of Documents.

The City of Atlanta has thirty days from the date of receipt of the discovery, to respond, and is required to answer each question and sub-part and to produce the requested documents.

This hearing on Monday is a status and scheduling conference called by Judge Baxter.  This is a preliminary hearing in the case.

Citizens of Atlanta and across the State of Georgia are encouraged to please come and show support for open meetings, transparency, and participatory democracy in the City of Atlanta.

At issue in this case is the City of Atlanta Council’s practice of holding closed-door Committee Briefings where they privately discuss issues prior to the actual Committee Meetings, in violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Act.

As previously reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper and by APN, the Georgia Attorney General’s office is reviewing the matter and may be taking some form of related action in the near future.  Stay tuned for more.

(END / 2011)

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