City leaders gathered Tuesday with the directive of planning a budget that is already finalized with monies already spent.
Approximately 18 months after hosting a 2010 budget planning retreat, Statesboro City Councilmen, Mayor Joe Brannen and department-heads returned to the Gateway Pondhouse for an encore presentation.
The conference, along with another morning meeting, was mandated by a Bulloch County Superior Court decision that found Statesboro in violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Act.
A September 2010 ruling by Superior Court Judge John Turner — and subsequent confirmation by the Georgia Supreme Court — required the city to re-hold two meetings a suing citizen group alleges were not properly advertised or recorded.
“We are complying with the court order today by conducting the April 1 and 19 (2010) meetings,” said Brannen. “We are discussing the same business that was discussed at the original meetings in 2010.”
“We are totally in compliance today,” said City Manager Frank Parker.
Using the same agenda created for last year’s gathering, department leaders reviewed and discussed items originally proposed for the 2011 fiscal-year budget.
The group reported, to council, the progress of projects that were approved for funding.
In a repeat of the city’s April 19 meeting, representatives from the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown Statesboro Development Authority and Averitt Center for the Arts provided operational and financial overviews for each of the organizations.
Absent from all proceedings were the six Bulloch County citizens who brought forth the suit against the city.
Earl Dabbs, Charles Oliff, Raybon Anderson, Jody Stubbs, Ray Hendley and Ellis Wood filed the lawsuit against the City of Statesboro on June 29, 2010, arguing that the two meetings held at the Gateway Pondhouse, instead of City Hall’s council chambers, violated Georgia law because they were not properly advertised and minutes of the meetings were not made available to the public.
City officials conceded no minutes were recorded — according to then City Manager Shane Haynes, the city historically did not prepare minutes for meetings in which no action was taken.
Employees asserted that notice was posted on the front door of City Hall — but not at the Pond House, which is on private property and inaccessible to the public during most days.
For Tuesday’s second round of meetings, notices were posted at City Hall, on the gate that usually bars the public from the pond house and each of the pond house doors.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.