Felicia Moore’s Decade of Unrecorded Votes, Opposing Transparency
(APN) ATLANTA — Council President Felicia A. Moore has staked her campaign for Mayor of Atlanta on transparency; however, as Committee on Council Chair, Moore conducted a secret vote in 2010 that led to a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that secret votes were unlawful in Georgia; and today, as Council President, she has presided over the adoption and reaffirmation of numerous Committee Meeting minutes that omit the movers, seconders, yeas, nays, and abstainers.
In 2010, as Committee on Council Chair, Felicia A. Moore presided over an unrecorded vote at the Feb. 2010 Council Retreat while Councilmembers were having lunch at the Georgia Aquarium.
The vote was regarding whether the Committee on Council ought to draft legislation to set public comment limits for each committee. Upon Moore’s advice to the Council at the time, it did not need to be recorded.
At the time, Atlanta Progressive News sought to know who supported Moore’s motion, and who did not support Moore’s motion. The minutes of the Feb. 2010 Council Retreat did not state which Councilmembers voted which way.
The City of Atlanta Law Department then defended the unrecorded vote.
“The ‘goal’ of asking the law department’s opinion was to get a legal opinion,” Moore wrote an April 29, 2010 email to APN.
“Perhaps your lawsuit will help you reach your ‘goal’. I have no need to further discuss this issue with you,” Moore wrote.
In May 2010, APN’s News Editor sued the City of Atlanta in Fulton County Superior Court over the secret vote.
And two years later, in 2012, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled in favor of APN’s News Editor that the minutes of agency meetings must include the details of all votes, including the yeas, nays, and abstainers, under the Georgia Open Meetings Act, O.C.G.A. 50-14-1 et seq.. Cardinale v. City of Atlanta, 290 Ga. 521 (2012).
However, despite the state’s highest court’s 2012 decision on the issue, the Atlanta City Council is still having problems today with recording its votes.
As Council President, Felicia A. Moore has continued to preside over Council Meetings where Committee Meeting minutes have been approved that exclude basic details, such as the mover, seconder, yeas, nays, and abstainers.
Atlanta Progressive News made Council President Moore and all Councilmembers aware of several of these Committee Meeting minutes in an email on June 04, 2021, “Felicia, Council – Add’tl. CD/HS Minutes w/ OMA Violations – Omitting Vote Details”.
Jan. 14, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes.)
Jan. 28, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes.)
Feb. 11, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes.)
Feb. 25, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda).
March 10, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes.)
However, to date, the minutes have not been amended.
APN asked Moore’s Campaign: What actions, if any, has Council President Moore taken to cause or bring about the correction of the minutes that clearly violate the Georgia Open Meetings Act?
Is Council President Moore content with the Committee Meeting minutes in their current state, to the extent that they exclude vote details?
Does Council President Moore support the continued expenditure of taxpayers dollars to defend these minutes–which are now the subject of litigation with Atlanta Progressive News–in Court; and if so, why?
If Council President Moore cannot secure transparency in her leadership over fifteen Councilmembers, how, if at all, would a Mayor Moore secure transparency over a vast administration?
Kimberly Krauss, a spokeswoman for Moore’s campaign, initially indicated they would reply; and APN stated the deadline was today. Moore’s campaign did not reply by deadline and did not immediately respond to a text message seeking to know if a reply would come this evening.
As it relates to transparency, there have been other issues specifically involving Moore; and other issues occurring under Moore’s watch.
She changed her mind, though, becoming one of the first chairs to decide to open her committee’s Committee Briefing to the public.
In 2013, all seven Committee Briefings were opened to the public, after the Council adopted an ordinance doing so that was drafted by APN’s News Editor and introduced by then-Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2). However, they still are not videotaped.
In 2018, Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) introduced an ordinance that would videotape the Committee Briefings. Not a single other Councilmember supported his ordinance.
Council President Moore opposed videotaping the Committee Briefings for the public, even sending her Chief of Staff Theo Pace to an Aug. 02, 2018 meeting with Channel 26 to discuss the feasibility of videotaping the Briefings, in which Pace opposed videotaping the Briefings on behalf of Moore.
Under her watch, and with her participation and apparent blessing, two Committees went into closed meetings, or Executive Sessions, on Feb. 11 and 12, 2020.
However, the City has failed to produce documentation that there was a real threat of litigation; only an ordinance that Councilmembers apparently thought might be illegal.
Recently, Councilmembers Westmoreland and Ide argued in court, with taxpayer dollars and against the public interest, that they ought to have been able to close their respective Committee Meetings merely to discuss a legally questionable ordinance.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Lee Ellerbe recently rejected that argument.
In addition, on May 20, 2021, Judge Ellerbe ruled, in a declaratory judgment order, that the official minutes of the Feb. 11, 2020 Community Development/Human Services Committee Meeting, purporting that a vote occurred when in fact a vote did not occur, violates the rights of APN’s News Editor to minutes that accurately reflect what transpired at the meeting.
To date, that portion of the Feb. 11, 2020 minutes have not been corrected; and are currently the subject of a lawsuit seeking an injunction.
The City of Atlanta has spent over 307,000 dollars defending apparent violations of the Georgia Open Meetings Act and Georgia Open Records Act since June 2020.
In conclusion, there is no reason to believe the pattern of continuing lack of transparency will change under Moore’s leadership, because it already has been occurring under Moore’s leadership.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2021)