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Advocate: Council vote was illegal

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A first amendment advocate said Lawrenceville's recent executive session decisions violated Georgia's sunshine laws.

Mayor Rex Millsaps said three council members voted behind closed doors last month to switch the city's planning director to a risk management position and hire an economic development manager as well as a new planning director.

The transactions were documented in a draft of the minutes of the meeting, but Councilman Bob Clark sought to remove the information during Monday's council meeting.

"The open meetings act allows very limited instances of closed session, and it does not permit a vote," said Hollie Manheimer of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. "In very limited instances, only deliberations and discussion are permissible in closed session."

Millsaps said he vacated the votes the next day, but council members kicked off the first steps of the plan during Monday's council meeting, redirecting the job description of risk manager to include city revitalization and creating a job description for the economic development manager.

At the meeting, Clark said the council needed to "correct" the minutes from the executive session, but Millsaps balked.

"The vote was clearly illegal," Millsaps said. "You can't make that disappear by saying we deleted that out of the minutes."

Clark conceded that the change would mean the minutes "would not be a complete record of what happened."

Clark's motion to approve a portion of the minutes failed, and council members instead decided to table the decision.

Manheimer said the deletion should not make the act "disappear."

"Even draft minutes are subject to the open records act," she said. "Therefore, regardless of whether draft minutes are approved, they still are subject to the open records act. Public records cannot be destroyed pursuant to records retention schedules."

The draft was not provided to the Gwinnett Daily Post by press time Friday.