Check out this open government victory in Habersham County. In short, the Court decided that Habersham officials violated the State’s open meetings and records laws. The Court ruled that the County faces $41K in fines, plus legal fees, over the Airport Authority’s special meetings and emails. Here is an excerpt from yesterday’s article in the Gainesville Times.
“A judge has found that Habersham County officials failed to comply with the state’s open meetings and records laws. Gainesville attorney Julius Hulsey, who represented local residents and a government employee whistleblower who brought the suit against the Habersham Board of Commissioners and Airport Authority, said Habersham officials have been ordered to pay legal fees and civil fines in excess of $41,000. “Most, if not all, of this award will have to be paid by Habersham County taxpayers because of the county commissioners’ failure to comply with the law,” Hulsey said.
“The Airport Authority was alleged to have held special meetings in February, June, July and September of 2014 without properly announcing them to the public, either by failing to publish notices in the local newspaper or failing to post notices in a timely manner at the location where such meetings were held. The lawsuit claimed that officials improperly called closed meetings to discuss a contract for an airport fixed-base operator and used private email addresses to communicate and share records in an effort to circumvent open records laws.
“Hulsey told The Times last summer that the case included elements that resemble Hillary Clinton’s imbroglio over using private email accounts, as well as similarities to allegations that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone and evidence that could have implicated him in deflating footballs to gain a competitive advantage. Commissioners and members of the Airport Authority denied the allegations from the start.
“Habersham County Manager Phil Sutton said Friday that it is undecided whether the county will appeal.”