Atlanta’s Secret Vote Lawsuit Back in Superior Court

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(APN) ATLANTA — Following a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Georgia on February 06, 2012, the secret vote lawsuit filed by the News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News–the present writer–against the City of Atlanta has returned to Fulton County Superior Court.

APN’s Editor filed the lawsuit against the City in May of 2010.  The lawsuit alleged that the City of Atlanta violated the law, specifically OCGA 50-14-1(e)(2), a section of the Georgia Open Meetings Act, when the Council held a vote at its February 2010 Retreat at the Georgia Aquarium, but failed to record in the minutes who voted against the proposal.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher ruled in August 2010 that the provision at issue in the Act did not require the listing of the names of those voting against the proposal or abstaining in the case of a non-roll call vote; merely that the citizens must presume the vote was unanimous if those names are not listed.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Georgia overturned Brasher’s dismissal of the lawsuit’s civil claims, ruling that OCGA 50-14-1(e)(2) does in fact require the listing of the names.

[Since then, the Legislature has revised OCGA 50-14-1(e)(2) to make it clear that the names of those voting for or against a proposal shall be listed in the minutes in all cases, whether vote was roll call or non-roll call.]

After the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled, the Court remitted the case back down to the Georgia Court of Appeals, which on March 22, 2012, adopted the Supreme Court’s ruling as its own.

The Court of Appeals then remitted the case back down to Fulton County Superior Court, and on April 18, 2012, Judge Brasher adopted the ruling of the Supreme Court, and thus of the Court of Appeals, as his own.

While the case was making its way back to Brasher’s court, APN’s Editor made a written and verbal request on March 05, 2012, to the Council to amend the minutes of the February 2010 Council Retreat, to include the names of those voting against the proposal, now that the Supreme Court had ruled.

Later that day, the Council did adopt a resolution, 12-R-0371, which resolved to amend the minutes.  The resolution became law without Mayor Kasim Reed’s signature on March 14, 2012.

On March 26, 2012, Municipal Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson provided APN with a copy of the amended minutes, which do include the listing of the names.

Yesterday, May 09, 2012, APN’s Editor filed a Request for Admissions with the City of Atlanta.

The City of Atlanta now has twenty-nine days remaining to respond to the Request for Admissions.  APN’s Editor believes the City should not have a problem admitting to any of the admission requests, seeing as how many of the facts laid out in the Request have already been admitted to previously by the Council within the text of resolution 12-R-0371.

APN’s Editor hopes that once all parties can agree regarding the facts of the case, to pursue a speedy resolution to the case.  In addition to the amendment of the minutes, which the City has already done, the Complaint filed in February 2010 also seeks that the Court declare that the City violated the law and to enjoin the City from doing so again.

APN’s Editor also filed yesterday a Rule 5.2 Certificate of Service with the Court to make the Court aware of the recent discovery request served upon the City.

The City has already admitted to a number of facts in the case in the context of the Answer and Motion to Dismiss they filed in June 2010.

Some of the additional admissions being sought at this time include:

Please admit that the outcome of the vote taken during the working lunch on February 19, 2010, at the Elected Officials Training and City Council Retreat, was seven yeas to eight nays.

Please admit that the seven yeas were: Council Members Keisha Lance Bottoms, Joyce Sheperd, Howard Shook, Alex Wan, Aaron Watson, H. Lamar Willis, and Ivory Lee Young, Jr.

Please admit that the eight nays were: Council Members Yolanda Adrean, Natalyn Archibong, Michael Bond, Kwanza Hall, C.T. Martin, Felicia Moore, Carla Smith, and Cleta Winslow.

Please admit that the vote taken during the working lunch on February 19, 2010, at the Elected Officials Training and City Council Retreat, was a non-roll call vote.

Please admit that said vote was taken to determine whether the members present wished the
Committee on Council of the Atlanta City Council to consider uniform rules for public comment at all committee meetings.

Please admit that the original version of the Report of the February 18 and 19, 2010 Elected Officials Training and City Council Retreat (hereafter “the Report,” attached to the Complaint as Exhibit A) did not reflect how the members present voted on the proposal regarding public comment.

Please admit that the Report continued to not reflect how the members present voted on the proposal, until the Report was amended on or around March 14, 2012.

Please admit that on or around March 01, 2010, Clerk Johnson received a written request from Matthew Cardinale for a copy of the official minutes of the Council Retreat, also known as the Report.

Please admit that on or around March 08, 2010, Johnson provided Plaintiff Matthew Cardinale with a copy of the Report (see: Exhibit A attached to the Complaint) by email and also sent a copy by mail.

Please admit that in an issue of first impression by the courts, the Georgia Supreme Court (Cardinale v. City of Atlanta et al., S11G1047) recently interpreted the Georgia Open Meetings Act to require, in the case of a non-roll call vote, that the minutes of a public meeting must include the names of those present voting against a proposal and the names of those abstaining.

Please admit that on March 05, 2012, the Council amended the official minutes of The Retreat to include all fifteen names, by adopting 12-R-0371.

Please admit that the Council adopted 12-R-0371 because the Council wished to amend the Report to comply with the ruling of the Georgia Supreme Court.

Please admit that 12-R-0371 became law on March 14, 2012.

Please admit that Exhibit A attached to this Request for Admissions is a genuine copy of 12-R-0371.

Please admit that on or around March 14, 2012, Municipal Clerk Rhonda Dauphin Johnson amended the Report to include the names of those voting both for and against the proposal regarding public comment.

Please admit that Exhibit B attached to this Request for Admissions is a genuine copy of the amended Report.

(END/2012)

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