Attorney General’s Office Warns Atlanta over Closed Briefings
(APN) ATLANTA — Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter advised the City of Atlanta and Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter’s office that Attorney General Sam Olens’s Office believes the City Council violated the Georgia Open Meetings Act by holding closed-door Committee Briefings, at a status and scheduling conference held today, Monday, August 08, 2011, in Judge Baxter’s conference room.
City Attorney Amber Robinson, who was joined by City Attorney Kristen Denius, admitted to Atlanta Progressive News’s News Editor–the present writer–that the City has been in discussions with Olens’s Office about entering into a possible consent decree.
Robinson and Denius said they were working on proposed settlement language, but were having difficulty finalizing their proposal while the City Council of Atlanta is on recess, which lasts until August 14, 2011.
The present writer brought this, a second Open Meetings Act lawsuit, pro se, or with no legal representation, in May 2011.
This suit challenges the Council’s practice of holding seven closed-door Committee Briefings every two weeks.
“We think there is a case here,” Ritter said during the conference. “We will, unless we can work out an agreement with the City… be filing a separate lawsuit and moving to have it sent to Judge Baxter.”
Robinson said that she would ask to have the two cases consolidated.
“We do think there is a violation. We’re hopeful the City agrees,” Ritter said, adding he is seeking “an order for future conduct.”
“Hopefully, we’ll have something to present to Judge Baxter in the next two weeks,” Ritter said. “We expect relief… enforceable in a future case should new violations arise.”
The conference was conducted by a staff attorney for Judge Baxter.
The present writer filed seven sets of interrogatories and a request for document production on July 26, 2011. The City’s responses to those requests are due on August 25, if a settlement is not reached before then.
The present writer agreed to file the next round of interrogatories by September 15, 2011, where the City’s responses would be due on October 17, 2011.
There would then be two months of depositions before discovery would end on December 16, 2011. The case is on the trial calendar for May 2012.
The present writer notified Baxter’s office that there have been new violations that have occurred since the case was filed; specifically, the Council’s closed-door pension meeting.
The City said they would not be willing to answer questions regarding any new violations not listed in the Complaint.
Therefore, the present writer advised that an amended complaint would be filed in the near future, pending the filing of the City’s responses to the current round of interrogatories and document requests.
The present writer’s first lawsuit against the City, regarding the Council’s secret vote of February 2010, was filed in May 2010, and is currently before the Supreme Court of Georgia. The Court granted a petition to review the case. The present writer filed an Appellant’s Brief in that case on August 01, 2011. The City’s reply is due by August 21.
(END / 2011)