Brown: Open records and the commissioners

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At the insistence of Fayette Commissioners Randy Ognio and Chuck Oddo, we had a special called meeting last Wednesday to discuss … thinking about it … not really sure?

Anyway, I have initiated a new county government program called “Fishing For Documents” and it consists of former 911 Call Center employees baiting a hook with very disturbing information and my throwing that hook into the water, attempting to snag some government records pertaining to those complaints which top-level staff had forgotten (on purpose) to tell some of the commissioners about for a year or more.

Now I did reel in some nice records, but a couple of the big ones got away. You have got to know where the right fishing holes are to find the big documents.

There some upper-level managers who were making a lot of noise and scaring off those trophy-sized documents. I could not hook a single one of them.

Sometimes when your requests are not completely fulfilled, you have to do something different. In my case, I decided to go to the Human Resources Department, ask to see the employee file of the 911 Call Center Director, found the whopper document and reeled it in. I asked to have a copy made and I presented it to the news media.

Gasping for air and making all kinds of foolish accusations, Ognio and Oddo got offended that I was finding the fishing holes with all the juicy documents. So they demanded a special called meeting (you can watch this fiasco for yourself at http://youtu.be/bWgf3MpcfbQ on YouTube).

Here is the short version of how it went down when the government circus came to town.

Ognio says we got big problems in Fayette County. He says Commissioner Brown broke the law reeling in that big juicy document on bad government dealings. Unfortunately, he could not say what law exactly that I was breaking … or how I was breaking the imaginary law … red faced … ouch.

Ognio and Oddo say the document and the employee file was confidential and could not be released to the public. Unfortunately, the legal opinion that the two circus masters ordered clearly proved that the document perfectly complied with the Georgia Open Records Act.

Not to be detoured, Ognio quickly comes up with a complaint that Commissioner Brown has to follow Fayette County policy on obtaining records. Grinning ear-to-ear, I ask whether commissioners are subject to such county policies … he couldn’t say … maybe. I asked if the County Administrator was subject to the county policies … Ognio gets grumpy…said he was not going to discuss that. Wonder why?

Oddo comes back, again, and says employee files are confidential … shake my head … he’s still wrong according to state law and the legal opinion that he and Ognio requested … he just can’t let go.

I showed them how I followed the county’s policy to the letter, going to Human Resources and complying with the Georgia Open Records Act … they still claim Commissioner Brown was wrong … they still can’t say how I was wrong … deja vu all over again … ouch.

Ognio reads a letter from a citizen that espouses censorship and restrictions on making government documents available to the public…Ognio completely agrees with the letter writer … the points they want are in violation of state law … Ognio and Oddo don’t care … still trying to figure out some way to trap Commissioner Brown … there must be a good reason to have this meeting … thinking.

Ognio makes a motion that all commissioners have to follow the county policies and Oddo seconds the motion. I ask if the County Administrator has to follow the procedures … Ognio refuses to discuss it … smile … wonder why? Ognio … red-faced … keeps dodging on the top administration position following the county’s policies.

Luckily, Commissioner Charles Rousseau talks Ognio off of the psychological ledge and suggests that the County Administrator should be included.

The County Administrator chimes-in that he has always followed the county’s procedures, it’s not true, but it sounds good. Begrudgingly, Ognio adds the County Administrator Steve Rapson to the motion … certainly not what Ognio and Oddo were aiming for.

Before the vote, I remind everyone that this meeting was meant to intimidate me, but since I didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t feel intimidated … I still have the documents on unsavory government behavior.

There were some in the audience who came to support the horrible government behavior even though they knew it was wrong, like the Hollywood starlet hanging on to Harvey Weinstein’s nasty arm … sweet hypocrisy. I am sure they will come around when the ax falls later on.

Maybe Ognio and Oddo understand the Georgia Open Records Act along with the county’s policies and procedures just a little bit better … thinking that might have been the reason for the special called meeting … still not feeling intimidated … local citizens watch the meeting video and get angry at the government circus performers who don’t want public records on bad behavior exposed.

Meeting adjourned.

If you want to find out what some the commissioners and the top administrators do not want you to know, go see my interview on The Citizen’s Facebook page.

Steve Brown, Commissioner
District 3, Fayette County Board of Commissioners
Peachtree City, Ga.