Says 2 sitting commissioners ‘should have known better’; asks for fine, penalties
Fayette County Commissioner Robert Horgan has filed a formal open meetings complaint regarding the interview process to hire a new county manager, an effort undertaken by two of Horgan’s fellow commissioners along with the three commissioners-elect who will take office in January.
The complaint was lodged this week with the office of Attorney General Sam Olens, which is empowered to investigate open meetings complaints.
In his complaint, Horgan notes that sitting commissioners Steve Brown and Allen McCarty, along with commissioners-elect Randy Ognio, Charles Oddo and David Barlow, held two meetings on Sept. 26 and Sept. 27 “for the purpose of interviewing and selecting a county administrator” without advertising the meeting in advance or even posting an advance notice on the county’s web site.
“Despite these interviews being scheduled well in advance of their meeting, this committee did not notify the local newspaper of their meeting, did not prepare and post an agenda for their meeting, and did not allow the public to participate in their meeting,” Horgan wrote. “Due to the pre-scheduled interviews, the committee had adequate time to post the meeting date and time on the county’s web site. It did not. The committee did not notify in written or oral notice at least 24 hours in advance to the legal organ or any other paper in our community that has general circulation.”
The end result, Horgan said, was that he was unable to attend the interview process. Horgan said he was also troubled by the fact that no staff members were involved with the meetings to take minutes or “ensure compliance with various hiring practices.”
Although there was no formal commission vote to appoint Brown, McCarty, Ognio, Oddo and Barlow as an official committee, Horgan contends the commission agreed unanimously by consensus to have them act as a committee. As explained at the time, the commission agreed that with Ognio, Oddo and Barlow due to take office in January, they should have a say in the next person hired as county administrator.
The Citizen has also confirmed that the committee had access to the formal applications filed for the county administrator position, documents that were not available to any citizen at the time under the state open records law.
In his complaint, Horgan is asking Olens to levy criminal fines and a civil penalty if it is determined that an open meetings violation took place.
Horgan said while he doesn’t blame the incoming commissioners as much, he felt that Brown and McCarty “should have known better.”
In fact, the new open meetings and open records law changes were the topic of a significantly-sized article in a statewide magazine that each commissioner received in September, Horgan noted.
It was in looking at that article that Horgan decided he needed to file the formal open meetings complaint, he said.
“They dropped the ball big time,” Horgan said in a Thursday interview with The Citizen. “They didn’t manufacture notes or minutes of the meetings until after the meeting when people were asking for open records requests.”
Commissioner Brown in an email said that he takes “full responsibility for the events” and claimed that he did not know the law had changed.
Brown’s email also claimed that Horgan filed the complaint because he didn’t like the committee’s recommendation to hire current Union City manager Steve Rapson. Rapson and Brown have a political relationship that dates back to their days serving together on the Peachtree City Council, and Brown has strongly advocated for Rapson based in large part on his financial acumen in dealing with governmental budgets.
“Essentially, Horgan is showing his true colors, bad sportsmanship and all, on his way out the door,” Brown said.
Horgan claims that the exclusion of his fellow commission members is not a new problem with Brown, pointing out that Brown communicated with the Peachtree City Council over a real estate issue last year without notifying his fellow commissioners or being authorized by a vote of the commission to do so.
Horgan also noted that both County Administrator Jack Krakeel and County Attorney Scott Bennett both warned the interview process was problematic.