The investigation into whether former City Manager Frank Parker and members of Statesboro City Council sometimes met privately in violation of the Open Meetings Act involved interviews and phone calls with more than 30 local people by the end of July.
After firing Parker June 24, the council requested the investigation, which is being conducted by Tom A. Peterson IV, a Vidalia lawyer, and paid for by the city. But the council also insisted that the investigation be an independent one. Municipal Court Judge Keith Barber recommended Peterson, with one of his qualifications for the task being his lack of previous dealings with the city of Statesboro.
Peterson's itemized July 31 invoice, received from City Hall in response to an open records request, shows the investigation underway July 7, with Peterson first reviewing the state sunshine laws and articles and video related to Parker's allegations. Peterson also received info from Barber identifying city officials in order to plan the interviews.
By July 31, according to a count of the names listed, Peterson had interviewed about 30 people, including all five City Council members, Mayor Jan Moore, City Attorney Alvin Leaphart, Parker - who was interviewed in the presence of two attorneys there on his behalf - and at least 21 people identified as city employees.
The total of 30-plus also includes about five people who Peterson had either interviewed or contacted by phone who are not identified as city employees.
His July 31 bill came to $10,051.53, including the purchase first of a tape recorder, tapes and batteries and later a hard drive and digital recorder, in addition to some driving expenses and his hourly rate.
The records request last week turned up no bill yet from a transcription service, reportedly working to produce written versions of the interviews. In comments to City Council in early August, Moore predicted that the investigation would take until mid-September, and possibly later, to complete.
The firing occurred at a specially called June 24 City Council meeting, where Moore and Leaphart recounted statements Parker made at a June 19 meeting with city department heads.
As reported Sunday, Parker's attorney, Daniel Snipes, in letters to attorneys for the city in June and July, asked for more than $250,000 damages for his client, asserting that Parker was protected by the state Whistleblower Act and had been fired wrongfully and slandered. But no lawsuit had been filed as of Friday, when Snipes said he would talk to Parker this week about how to proceed.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.