EDITOR'S NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author of the post and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Patch.
Over the past couple of months speculation has been made that many Canton City Councilmen were meeting behind closed doors, without public notice, and making critical policy decisions outside of the Mayor and public eyes. You see, anytime a certain number of City Councilmen and Mayor meet, and under certain conditions, what is called a ‘quorum’ is met and very specific actions must be taken during this time. The law says, in Canton’s Charter Section 2.21:
"The mayor, or in the mayor's absence the mayor pro tem, and three council members shall constitute a quorum and shall be authorized to transact business of the city council. For voting purposes, the mayor pro tem shall be counted as one of the council members, even when presiding over the meeting. Voting on the adoption of ordinances shall be by voice vote or another means of voting approved by council and the vote shall be recorded in the journal, but any member of the city council shall have the right to request a roll call vote and such vote shall be recorded in the journal. Except as otherwise provided in this Charter, the affirmative vote by majority shall be required for the adoption of any ordinance, resolution, or motion. No ordinance shall be adopted, however, unless it shall receive at least three affirmative votes."
Reportedly, none of the requirements have been met or even an attempted to have been met. Back room deals are possibly being made and public distrust in the Gang of 5 is growing. During open forum at a recent Canton City Council meeting a concerned citizen challenged the Council of these quorumed back room meetings and in response Councilman Beresford replied, “so sue me.”
To add, Section 2.19 (c) says, "All meetings of the city council shall be public to the extent required by law and notice to the public of special meetings shall be made fully as is reasonably possible as provided by section 50-14-1 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated [O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1], or other such applicable laws as are or may hereafter be enacted."
What do these two sections of Canton's Charter mean? If the required number of Councilmen and Mayor or Councilmen and Mayor pro tem are discussing city business, to include sending out policy decisions on official letterhead, then this meeting and voting on policy issues must be recorded. Further, these meetings must be public.
Attached is a copy of a disseminated letter and includes the signatures of each member of the Gang of 5, most of the Canton City Council Members, and on official letterhead. The Mayor, his assistant, nor the public were made aware of these negotiations, back room meetings, and policy decisions.
This is the all too familiar unethical business practices Canton’s citizens once endured. It is critical the Mayor acts without haste and deliberately to determine if these private, quorum questioned, meetings violate the law. I encourage the Mayor to assemble an Ethical Inquiry Board to investigate this matter with his authority under Section 2.35 part h of Canton’s Charter states:
"Conduct inquiries and investigations into the conduct of the city’s affairs and shall have such duties as may be provided by ordinance.”
The letter sent out by the Gang of 5, along with Councilman Beresford’s shocking remark, places the City Council and the citizens of Canton at an Impasse. The citizens demand accountability and transparency from the very people they elected to serve their interest. While is saddens me to have to report this possible illegal activity and shed negative light on the city I love so much; I am hopeful that a renewed sense of urgency will be placed on accountability and transparency of all elected and appointed leaders.