The Douglas County Peoples' Action Committee (DCPAC), a local advocacy group, has begun to take legal measures to ensure that the Douglas County Board of Commissioners adhere to Georgia's Open Meetings Act.
(DCPAC) has retained attorney Theodore P. Meeker III with the Newnan law firm Sumner Meeker, alleging violations of the Georgia Open Meetings Act by Douglas County during the bus system start-up operations funding application submitted to the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC).
A letter from Meeker addressed to County Attorney Ken Bernard was obtained by the Sentinel on July 9.
Heather Denis, who chairs DCPAC, called the action "a last-ditch effort for citizens to be heard."
"Our group has tried to appeal to the Board of Commissioners and the ARC," she said, "and we feel strongly that the open meetings and processes are not followed and kept by the BOC."
Denis said the group "was not getting anywhere with the BOC and ARC" with concerns regarding the proposed county bus system.
She said, "We just want them to do the right thing and let the citizens' voice be heard. If the citizens' voice continues to be suppressed, something has to be done. "
Denis said neither she nor others in DCPAC wanted to take the issue through the legal system, but felt they had no other recourse in doing so.
Meeker said in the letter that concerns raised by his clients have focused on the budget for the operation of the bus system and the process to arrive at the application being submitted.
As of press time Wednesday, the Sentinel had gotten no response to messages requesting comment regarding the letter from Bernard or Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones.
DCPAC alleges that on May 17, 2017, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to be filed with the ARC for the amount of $8 million, with a $1.6 million local match. The letter states “no authority appears to be given in that resolution taken by the Douglas County BOC to deviate from the application as described in the resolution.”
According to Meeker, the county transportation committee met on Oct. 10, 2017, and a vote occurred to amend the application to the ARC. The letter contends that the amended application was mentioned at the Oct.16 BOC meeting, but no vote occurred at that meeting, and that the amended application was submitted to the ARC.
The letter states “the confusion over what was submitted to the ARC and what was actually approved by the BOC was noted by one of the commissioners at the meeting on March 6, 2018.
Meeker said in the letter, “We requested documents evidencing agendas of the transportation committee. This was done as my client’s members attended such committee meetings and do not recall seeing agendas being available or being published. The response by the county to an open record request for such agendas show that no such agenda existed prior to October 17, 2017."
”In other words, our request for documents did not provide evidence to suggest that the agendas were published as required by the Georgia Open Meetings Law,” said Meeker.
DCPAC member Dawn Leonard said, "The citizens of Douglas County who oppose the proposed bus system have been continuously denied representation. Now they have it. The Douglas County BOC has been put on notice."
The attorney for the DCPAC asked that Douglas County and the Douglas County Transportation Committee “cease and desist failing to comply with the Georgia Open Meetings Act” and if “failing to comply from this date forward, legal action will be filed to enforce the rights of my clients and the citizens of Douglas County.”
Meeker said the letter has been copied to the Douglas County District Attorney, the Douglas County Solicitor General and that state attorney general’s office so they can determine if any additional investigation is warranted.