County commission minutes now so brief that they are useless to taxpayers

Tue, 05/27/2008 - 4:03pm
By: Letters to the ...

A citizen recently wrote a letter to the local newspapers. He raised questions that deserve to be addressed.

The topic concerned the minutes of County Commission meetings, and it applies to other meetings of official commissions and committees.

If you can, look at Peachtree City’s minutes or look at the County Commission minutes prior to Nov. 7, 2007. Those minutes are complete and a citizen is able to follow and see who was actually supporting something or opposing something.

No, a “court stenographer” did not record the minutes, as Commissioner Maxwell suggested might be necessary. Commissioners had the opportunity to affirm or deny that the minutes accurately reflected what they had said when they voted to approve the minutes.

That is not what happens now. The minutes we see are a summary of what was said. This change was not formally proposed and, until now, was not voted on by the commission. Again, it is more difficult for citizens to know what is going on.

An example? Look at Nov. 19, 2007. This was a meeting that began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 4:40 p.m. The minutes are covered in one page. Any citizen who can tell what was discussed at that meeting from the minutes has mental powers way beyond the average person.

It seems that this was done for the convenience of someone on this board or for someone on our staff. We are in public service. We should do what is convenient for our taxpayers, never what is convenient for us. A taxpayer should be able to easily obtain a copy of our minutes that identifies who said what and what happened.

We must be open and transparent in all areas. The public should never have to try to guess what we may have done. They should never wonder if something is being obscured.

It is this board’s policy that the taxpayer is forced to rely on an audio copy to find out what we’ve done. How does the person who does not have a computer or other playback system listen to the recording? Why should they have to have any equipment at all?

How does the taxpayer know from an audio recording what happened and who said what? Do we assume that all taxpayers can identify the commissioners and the staff by the sound of their voice? Isn’t that more than a little egotistical? The ability of the public to actually use this new method is not a consideration by the majority of your commission.

This is a different way of doing business. It is doing the legal minimum, doing what is required, versus doing what is necessary to keep the taxpayers informed. Fayette County should go the extra mile and make sure people know what’s going on.

On Thursday, we approved the minutes from two past meetings. They were on the consent agenda. I do not intend to be an obstructionist, which is why I voted to approve that consent agenda. But I want to make my position clear. That was the last time I will vote to approve any minutes that are in the current format.

I made a motion to return to the old minutes system unless a better system is proposed for the citizens of this county. My motion was voted down 4-1. This was the first, and only, vote taken on this change. Rather than any political spin about how “hard the commission works” to keep you informed, just remember the results of that vote.

Peter Pfeifer

County Commission Post 3

Peachtree City, Ga.

login to post comments