City Attorney Defends More Atlanta Closed Meetings, on Eagle Raid
(APN) ATLANTA — Senior Assistant City Attorney Kristen Denius defended two closed-door meetings involving the Atlanta Police Department LGBT Advisory Board, Mayor Reed and his staff, and APD, in a memo prepared for Glen Paul Freedman, Chair of the Board, dated Monday, August 22, 2011.
In this memo, Denius advised Freedman, in the opinion of the City of Atlanta Department of Law, that it was perfectly acceptable to hold the closed meetings. However, Denius’s arguments are not valid, demonstrate a continued taxpayer-funded effort to violate the law, and expose the wide array of arguments the City of Atlanta is willing to employ to violate the law in new ways to hold secret meetings.
The first meeting between the Board and the Mayor’s Office took place on July 26, 2011, at City Hall in the Mayor’s Cabinet Room.
The second meeting between the Board and APD took place on July 29 at APD headquarters.
The meetings were closed to the press and the public.
Board Members Betty Couvertier and Tracee MacDaniel and Georgia Voice magazine were among those opposed to the closed-door meetings.
The Board had requested the two meetings in order to discuss their concerns about the City’s handling of the Atlanta Eagle raid of 2009, including concerns about five officers who were not fired despite having broken the law, according to Couvertier.
The Mayor and APD agreed to have the meetings upon the Board’s request.
Freedman, however, argued that meetings should be closed. “For this update and Q/A meeting with the Mayor I would recommend it just be the Advisory Board members,” he wrote in a July 18 email obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.
“I believe we will be able to obtain more information in a casual setting without other parties in the room,” he wrote.
Freedman asked Board Members how they felt.
Couvertier replied, “I vote for media being present. I object to being the only ones there. This meeting is not a time for measured words, but a time to be clear and transparent about the issues at hand, about accountability, and where all this will ‘land.'”
“This is not about legaleez or being politically correct, this is about humanity, the harm that was done [during the Raid], the crimes that were committed, the coverup that was attempted and still in play,” she wrote.
According to Couvertier, the Board voted seven to two to close the meetings.
In her letter to Freedman, attempting to justify the closed meetings, Denius argued that the Board “is not an ‘agency’ as defined by the Open Meetings Act.”
In support of this argument, Denius misrepresented the Georgia code.
“OCGA 50-14-1 provides that an ‘agency’ is either an actual a creation of a governing body, such as the Atlanta City Council, or a non-profit” meeting certain criteria, Denius stated.
However, 50-14-1 does not use the words governing body; it uses the words “municipal corporation,” and while the Board may not have been created by the Council, it was indeed created by the municipal corporation.
Denius went on to cite case law to justify her assertion that “purely advisory groups are not subject to the requirements of the Georgia Open Meetings Act.”
The case Denius cites is Atlanta Journal v. Hill, which was decided in 1987.
However, the Georgia Open Meetings Act was significantly revised in 1988 to add advisory groups such as committees, so Denius is citing case law which no longer applies.
As readers know, APN’s Editor has two Open Meetings cases against the City of Atlanta pending, including one filed in May 2011 which is currently in discovery in Fulton County Superior Court.
APN’s Editor will be amending this Complaint to include new violations which have come to light since the May 2011 filing, including the Committee Chairs’ Briefings, the closed pension reform compromise meeting and other closed ad hoc meetings, the closed LGBT Advisory Board meeting which the City participated in, in addition to Open Records violations.
(END / 2011)