Confusion, clash between council and mayor prompts City of Stonecrest’s special called meeting on Super Bowl Sunday

 

STONECREST—The Stonecrest City Council is having a virtual Special Called meeting on Sunday, Feb. 7, 4 p.m., after confusion prompted the postponement of the Special Called meeting scheduled on Friday, Feb. 5.

The date and time for Sunday’s meeting are not a mistake. The virtual meeting is now scheduled on the same day as the 2021 Super Bowl LV, where festivities traditionally begin a couple of hours ahead of the big football game, which is set for 6:30 p.m. ET between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

The city’s special called meeting was rescheduled to Sunday after the council and the city advertised two different Zoom links for the public’s access.  City Attorney Winston Denmark said in an interview today (Feb. 6) with On Common Ground New that he had  advised the City Council the special called meeting on Friday, Jan. 5, “couldn’t go forward due to a failure to provide clear notice to the public.”  The council instead held a discussion on the agenda, but took no action.

“The law requires the public has clear notice of the meeting. Due to the fact that there were two separate (ZOOM) links, the notice advertised didn’t comply with the Open Meetings Act. Those two links created a lot of confusion over where the public was supposed to access the meeting,” Denmark said.

The confusion underscores the clash that persists between the mayor and four council members as they continue to struggle to communicate with one another.  The latest battle includes a meeting agenda focused on a proposal for a temporary citywide moratorium to accept applications for new gas stations,  the city’s finances, purchasing policy and contracts.  The first special called meeting addressing this agenda was set for Jan. 29, a few days after the mayor returned to office early from medical leave for treatment of cancer.  Mayor Jason Lary opened the meeting and then shut it down after making a statement alleging the Open Meetings Act had been violated, several ethics violations had occurred, and adding that he and his staff “feel bullied, intimidated and pushed into a corner.”

Council members Jazzmin Cobble, George Turner, Rob Turner and Tammy Grimes concurred to reschedule the Jan. 29 meeting for Friday, Feb. 5, 6 p.m. While Councilmember Jimmy Clanton did not email that he concurred, he was present for both, the Jan. 29 meeting and the Feb. 5 meeting.

Following is part of the email timeline of what happened leading up to the special called meting scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7:

Feb. 4, 2:16 p.m.: Council member Cobble sent the following notice to the city’s administration and four media representatives (On Common Ground News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Champion and CBS News):

Good afternoon,

In accordance with the legal opinion written by the city attorney, Winston Denmark on January 31st, 2021, a legally advertised Special Called Meeting of the City Council may be held so long as there is at least 24 hour advance notice, called by 3 council members or by the mayor and 1 council member and allows public access to the meeting. The law does not require the meeting to be held at city hall nor on a city owned virtual platform.  

As such, this serves as a notice of a Special Called Meeting on February 5th, 2021 @6pm with the following agenda and back up attached. Please also post this notice AND packet to our website and at city hall.

The Mayor, City Council Members, City Attorney and staff will receive a Zoom Meeting invite via email prior to the meeting. The public can access the live stream of the meeting at Facebook Live, Rob Turner for Councilman.

Three (3) other councilmembers will reply with their concurrence. 

Special Called Meeting Agenda

  1. 2nd read and adoption of the proposed gas station moratorium
  2. Approve the updated Purchasing Policy and designate a Purchasing Agent
  3. Investigative inquiry and action related to the program administration of the CARES Act Relief Fund
  4. Stonecrest Convention and Visitors Bureau
  5. Stonecrest Development Authority
  6. Contract Management
  7. Contract Amendment 
  8. Legal Services-Assistant City Attorney and such other assistant and special city attorney
  9. Request to immediately receive recommendation for award of external audit firm for purchasing card audit
  10. Resolution on ending virtual meetings
  11. Hire independent legal representation for city councilmembers

 

Feb. 4, 3:06: Cobble sent an email clarifying that the council planned to host the meeting on a Zoom account that was not associated with the city’s Zoom link to Communications Director, Adrion Bell, stating that the council is not required by law to use a city-owned platform to hold a meeting.

 

Feb. 4, 5:46 p.m.: City Clerk Megan Reid emailed the following notice:

There is a special called meeting scheduled on February 5, 2021 at 6pm. Please see agenda and packet attached.

Public Access: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp3rYzHzhZvd9Y7Ruf1O6kg

 

Feb. 5, 4:25 p.m.: Mayor Jason Lary responded to Council member Cobble’s email:

All, after further legal council on this matter:

The legal and official special call meeting is listed below, as it was sent out properly by the city to have legal access to the meeting yesterday.

Council will not be directing staff to do anything.

Jacobs employees are prohibited from personal Facebook and social media access from their city issued computer.

The Mayor (me) and other staff have no idea of the records custodian of a personal Facebook of Councilman Rob Turner, or future access to records

City business will not be conducted on personal web and Facebook pages.

Mayor 

 

Today (Feb. 6) at 8:47 a.m., City Clerk Megan Reid notified On Common Ground News via e-mail of the special called meeting scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7.

The special called meetings, the agenda and the agenda packet can be found under Legal Notices online at  www.ocgnews.com.

The public can access the live stream of the meeting at Facebook Live, Rob Turner for Councilman.

One comment

  • Dave Marcus

    February 6, 2021 at 5:04 pm

    A couple of things to note. Regardless of the Mayor’s statements, the official-from-the-city-clerk notice for the 2/7 Special Called Meeting specifies “This serves as a notice of a Special Called Meeting on February 7th, 2021 @4pm with the following agenda/notice attached. The public can access the live stream of the meeting at Facebook Live, Rob Turner for Councilman.”

    No one seems to know why the Mayor thought he had authority, without concurrence from council and without a motion or vote, to literally pull the plug on the 1/29 special called meeting. What would have been the reaction if a single councilman turned off all the circuit breakers at city hall in order to force an end to a meeting? If the Mayor thought that the meeting violated the Open Meetings Law, he had the option to not attend and then to ask for an opinion from the state Attorney General. This all is complicated by the Mayor not having shared what it is that he believed constituted ethical violations (the city’s ethics law seems to address only officials profiting from their actions) or what he believed constituted violations of the Open Meetings Act. We are as much in the dark about his reasoning and why he believed he had the authority to shut down a legal meeting as we were when the Zoom link to the meeting suddenly went black.

    Reply

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