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Flowery Branch City Council to keep meetings in mornings

No vote taken on proposal to limit contents of meeting minutes

POSTED: March 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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An ordinance maintaining a 9:30 a.m. city council meeting time divided the Flowery Branch City Council on Wednesday.

Flowery Branch City Council has convened twice a month at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesdays since January 2006, when current council members Mary Jones, Pat Zalewski and Allen Bryans took office. Prior to January 2006, meetings were held during evening hours and at times during morning hours, according to Zalewski.

The meeting style, days and time ordinance was approved 3-2, with newly elected Councilmen Chris Fetterman and Craig Lutz in dissent with the majority. Lutz and Fetterman said that although they approve the portion of the ordinance that separates the council’s work session from its voting session, which allows more opportunity for public comment, they do not approve of the 9:30 a.m. meeting time.

Instead, Fetterman and Lutz stated during the meeting that they would rather hold the public meetings during the evening when more Flowery Branch residents could participate.

Former Flowery Branch City Councilman Ed Lezaj spoke against the ordinance at the public comment portion of the meeting.

"The only ones that can attend this (meeting) is retirees in the community, which minimizes the activity of the working class in government," Lezaj said. "You have to recognize that people have to work."

Former Flowery Branch City Councilwoman Jan Smith said she has received 65 letters from Flowery Branch residents who request the council change meeting times to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. She said she has already forwarded 25 of those letters to Fetterman.

Lutz said the 9:30 a.m. City Council meeting time also diminishes the number of Flowery Branch residents who could potentially serve on the council, because their employers may not permit them time off to attend meetings.

Debate regarding a previously proposed change in the manner in which the minutes of Flowery Branch City Council meetings are recorded also occurred at the meeting Wednesday.

At the Feb. 20 City Council meeting, Bryans suggested the council consider adopting an action-only style of minute-taking, rather than the city’s current summary minutes.

Action-only minutes would not record any public comment made during the meeting for publication, and would limit council members’ on-the-record debate comments to only the voting session rather than the entire meeting, according to Flowery Branch City Attorney Ron Bennett.

Bennett said that according to state law and Robert’s Rules of Order, which Flowery Branch has adopted, city councils may determine the extent of detail in which meeting minutes are recorded, with action-only minutes being the legal minimum standard.

Locally, Oakwood uses summary minutes, which summarize all public and city official comments made throughout the meetings and records all votes. Braselton uses action-only minutes.

Bryans said he proposed the action-only method to protect the city from potential libel law suits in regard to a comment Fetterman made at the Feb. 6 council meeting on the city’s leasing of two Main Street buildings from Hortman and Dobbs Developers LLC.

As recorded in the minutes of Feb. 6, Fetterman stated that it was his hope that the city was not leasing 5512 Main St. from Hortman and Dobbs Developers LLC as a campaign quid pro quo to one of the owners of Hortman and Dobbs Developers, who ran for a seat on the Flowery Branch City Council in November, and was publicly supported by four of the five previous City Council members.

The majority of the council voted to table the minutes of Feb. 6 until the March 19 City Council meeting, while Bryans and Fetterman agreed to compromise outside of the public meeting.

The proposal to not record public comment in the published minutes of City Council meetings drew at least two Flowery Branch residents to the meeting Wednesday.

"I don’t approve of having action-only minutes," Lezaj said. "They eliminate any documentation of any private citizen, developer or anyone who comes in front of the council. If you’re not at the meeting, you’ll never know about it because it’s not on the record."

Again the council was divided, with Fetterman and Lutz speaking against the action-only minutes proposal.

No council member made a motion to vote on the proposal to move from summary minutes to action-only minutes Wednesday, and the city clerk will continue to document a summarized version of all comments made during meetings for public record.

Also, the council unanimously approved the first reading of a solicitation ordinance Lutz proposed that would require solicitors traveling door-to-door in Flowery Branch neighborhoods to register first with the city before approaching businesses or residents’ homes. The ordinance also proposes to limit solicitation hours from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.



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