Already, one resident has filed a complaint about the meeting with the state Attorney General’s Office, and an attorney with the Georgia Press Association says the meeting could violate state law.
Members of the Georgia Charter Educational Foundation’s Legal and Compliance Committee immediately voted to go into the executive session when the special meeting was called to order at 11 a.m., and called into a private line for an hour discussing the contract.
When asked about the meeting by the Cherokee Tribune, Georgia Press Association attorney David Hudson said that discussing a contract, including one in draft form, is not a reason to
go into executive
However, board attorney Rob Fortson, who was on the line during the private meeting, said Friday afternoon the board was within its right to discuss its management contract under executive session.
“Under the open meetings law, it does make clear that discussion of property, any type of property, is included,” Fortson said. “Second, discussing attorney work product is also contemplated as an exemption.”
Fortson did not explain what property was discussed.
Under the Georgia Sunshine Laws, meetings can be closed to discuss acquisition or disposal of real estate, settlements of lawsuits or claims against an agency, personnel matters, to consult an attorney regarding pending litigation, or to discuss exempt documents such as security plans or criminal activities.
The Georgia Charter Educational Foundation is the non-profit governing board of Cherokee Charter Academy and Coweta Charter Academy, both charter schools authorized by the Georgia Department of Education.
A charter school is a public body that is governed under the same laws as a public school system.
Members present included Board Chairwoman Lyn Carden, Vice Chairwoman Marian Parker and John McIntyre, Danny Brewington, a board consultant, and Fortson, who is with McGuire Woods Consulting LLC.
The board did not take action upon returning to the teleconference call and voted immediately to adjourn the meeting.
After the meeting, Carden said since the contract is “red line and not final,” it is covered under Article 14, Ch. 18 Title 50 of state law.
Carden also said the board discussed “entering into a contract to purchase, dispose of or lease property subject to approval” during executive session, which was not listed on the agenda.
In the special called meeting’s agenda, the committee did not list executive session as an agenda item.
Fortson said listing an executive session on the proposed meeting agenda is not required to enter into executive session, but the two exceptions that apply will be identified in Carden’s sworn affidavit that is required to be submitted with the board’s meeting minutes.
“As long as the motion is made during the session, I believe that’s acceptable,” Fortson said.
Under Georgia law, under 50-14-1 subsection E1, an agency shall make available an agenda on all matters prior to any meeting.
“What was on the agenda is what we discussed,” Fortson said.
Complaints against the board are pending with the state Attorney General’s Office and Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter, including two separate allegations that GCEF failed to properly advertise meeting times and dates and inappropriately entered into executive session.
The complaints were addressed in a letter to Ritter by Fortson on Friday, with an additional complaint sent by Christine Rea on Friday afternoon included in the documents regarding Friday morning’s meeting.
“I do not believe pending contracts are an acceptable exemption, and I also question whether it was appropriately advertised, as there is no executive session item on the posted agenda,” Rea said in the email. “It is again a conference call, with no location noted of where they are actually meeting. Can a committee, not the full board, even go into executive session?”
Rea was one of the women who submitted the original complaints.
When contacted Friday, Ritter said he had not had a chance to review the response from the board’s attorney.
Fortson said in his response that all issues are either being addressed for the future or were not violations.