Commissions and councils complain that the general populace does not attend meetings — simply, they cannot. Most meetings are held when the general populace is at work or on their way to or from work.
The last county commission meeting I attended, I spoke to commissioners about concerns I had, and received no answers. I decided to attend a commission meeting and present my concerns to the entire board of commissioners and county manager as a group, thus assuring my concerns were indeed heard. They were presented, but I am not sure they were heard.
When I asked the county commission for a copy of minutes of the meeting, I was sent items the commissioners had voted on. I then asked the county clerk for complete minutes of the meeting and was told they only had to record information as to what commissioners were present and what and how they voted on. I then called the county attorney, and he confirmed what the county clerk said. I asked for the Georgia Law number and he gave me:
Official Code of Georgia, OCGA 50-14-1 (d) 2b covers all government meetings in Georgia, including county commission and city council. It reads as follows:
(B) The regular minutes of a meeting subject to this chapter shall be promptly recorded and such records shall be open to public inspection once approved as official by the agency or its committee, but in no case later than immediately following its next regular meeting; provided, however, that nothing contained in this chapter shall prohibit the earlier release of minutes, whether approved by the agency or not. Such minutes shall, at a minimum, include the names of the members present at the meeting, a description of each motion or other proposal made, the identity of the persons making and seconding the motion or other proposal, and a record of all votes. The name of each person voting for or against a proposal shall be recorded.
This "minimal" excludes any and all public concerns, proposals or presentations made at the meeting. Bulloch County has decided the minimum is all the public will get.
I think they're reading this as to do little or to only document what they wish — I do not think this was the intent of the Georgia Legislature when the law was passed.
If our Founding Fathers simply recorded votes counted, what a poor history we would read today.
With the technology that's available, recording video and audio of an entire meeting would be neither a burden nor costly. An audio CD of the meeting costs pennies and could be made available at government offices, public libraries, newspapers and streamed on websites. Legally, newspapers and individuals may record government meetings with either audio or video.
It seems this is the job and duty of the governmental body holding the meeting rather than each and every person who might attend the meeting.
If our local governments are sincerely representing our people, it seems they would provide the people with the most information possible rather than the minimum information. The people are now getting after-the-fact information mostly rather than being a part of the decisions made.
Democracy is government of, for and by the people. The people must be given maximum information of government and the opportunity to speak for or against.
Who knows, maybe a constructive thought, concern or solution might be learned.
Not all citizens can attend meetings, but all citizens deserve — and must have — a voice heard and considered.
E. Ruth Green, Ph.D.