Friday, Oct. 15, 2004
Paper asks court to stop meeting
By JOHN MUNFORD
The Citizen Newspapers Thursday afternoon filed suit against Peachtree City to halt a scheduled pre-dawn Monday closed-door meeting of the City Council.
The scheduled meeting would involve discussions of final design plans for the controversial Kedron Target store between the council members, its attorney and attorneys for other groups who are party to a related lawsuit.
The newspaper is seeking a temporary restraining order in Fayette Superior Court to halt the closed meeting, which is scheduled for 6 a.m. Monday at City Hall.
The Citizen contends the meeting violates Georgias open meeting statutes, which allows a governing body to meet in secret session with its own attorney to receive legal advice or to talk about pending litigation.
In this case, however, the newspaper is arguing that the city has announced that third parties will be present at the closed-door meeting, including attorneys for developer Faison Corporation and homeowners associations.
Because of the additional parties present at the otherwise closed meeting, there would be no attorney-client privilege and the meeting would be a violation of state law 50-14-1 and -2, the newspaper argues in its court filing.
The city has no judges ruling allowing this closed session, said Cal Beverly, publisher of The Citizen. The city also has absolutely no case law that would allow it to hold this pre-sunrise meeting with outside parties while excluding the general public, which has a high stake in the outcome. We are afraid that the city is preparing to openly violate the state sunshine law, which is why we filed for a restraining order.
City officials did not return phone calls seeking comment on The Citizen-initiated lawsuit Thursday afternoon.
The Citizens attorney, Don W. Johnson of Fayetteville, said he expected a quick hearing on the issue, possibly by Thursday evening, after the papers deadline.
Earlier this week, City Attorney Ted Meeker said the executive session to discuss the matter was legal since the suit isnt settled.
Its still an active case until the final site plan is approved, Meeker said. All the parties to the litigation will be party to the discussions.
That comment indicates that residents in the Kedron Hills neighborhood will be at the table, but not those living in nearby St. Simons Cove, who protested changes to the shopping center expansion that occurred after Kedron Hills joined the lawsuit between developer Faison Corporation and Peachtree City.
That lawsuit was settled with a consent order from Judge Christopher Edwards that was agreed to by each party in the case. It initially required the City Council to act on Faisons site plan no later than 12 days after it was submitted, but Faison later waived that right, city officials said.
If details can be worked out at the closed meeting, its possible the plans could be up for approval at the Oct. 21 City Council meeting.
Mayor Steve Brown has complained about the architecture of the building. The 125,000 sq. ft. building is a glorified big box, he said.
Copyright 2004-Fayette Publishing, Inc.