I am sure that most everyone can see the irony in our City Council passing a resolution on civility just a short while ago only to have one uncivil and discourteous act after another in the past several weeks.
It’s an election month and the political tension can be overly enthusiastic, but it does not have to be that way.
On October 17, The Citizen published my letter to the editor endorsing a candidate, Suzanne Brown, for the City Council. My letter was very matter of fact and never once did I mention any of my colleagues on the City Council.
My endorsement letter was followed by a blistering email from Mayor Learnard replete with insults and accusations, referring to my letter as “ignorant blather.” I have never spoken to a colleague on this council in that manner and I never intend to do so in the future.
I forwarded the mayor’s email to The Citizen to show the constituents what some on the city council are having to deal with from the leadership. Comparing the email to our resolution on civility with our colleagues, I would say we have a lot of work to do.
Next, at our October 19 City Council meeting, Councilman Phil Prebor and Mayor Learnard, directed some sharp questions at Councilman Mike King and me about a list of deceased residents that was given to a group of concerned citizens of which we were a part as the result of an open records request to the county government’s Coroner who then referred her to the Probate Court.
The open records request from Ms. Margaret Ross just asked for a list of deceased residents in Fayette County that could be compared to the county’s voter roll to ensure the voter data was accurate. The records request did not ask for social security numbers. The request only asked for data that would appear on the public voter roll offered to citizens and candidates, and additionally the date of death.
At my request, we were assured by the Chief Clerk of the Probate Court that the lists provided by the court “were open public records available to any citizen.” Copies of this correspondence are available on the city’s network server.
Had either Councilman Prebor or Mayor Learnard asked me any time prior to the drama of the October 19, City Council meeting about the situation I would have gladly given them the correspondence from the official at the Probate Court who provided the lists.
It is my understanding that city staff receives the same lists of deceased residents on a monthly basis. Perhaps we can get the City Manager to verify this.
On November 1, Mayor Learnard publicly commented on the Probate Court’s releasing the lists claiming the court had “breached” the data and provided “false” information in her “Mayor Kim Learnard” Facebook page. Going back to our resolution and commitment to civility in our dealings, it would have been more polite and respectful had she personally called the Probate Court before turning the matter into a public scene.
Perhaps the staff at the Probate Court made a mistake and provided certain information in error, I really do not know. The reassurance from the Probate Court that the data provided was open to the public may also have been in error, but that is up to the county government and the Probate Court.
None of the lists were disseminated to the public. Copies were given to the county government’s Board of Elections.
I hope in the future that we will handle such matters with more modesty and decorum. A little communication, research, and professionalism could have resolved this matter without so many political shots being fired.
I have been informed that the Probate Court is conferring with the state government on their protocol and if errors were made, they will make the necessary corrections.
Councilman, Post 3
Peachtree City, Ga.