The Hall County Civil Service Board voted to affirm the termination of a former Hall County Fire Services employee for the third time after twice failing to conduct the appeals in compliance with the Georgia Open Records Act.
Board attorney Perry Sartain listened to motions from both Joseph Homans, attorney for former Battalion Chief David McGehee, and County Attorney Bill Blalock during the Friday hearing at the Hall County Government Center.
“The problem that brings us back here today is that the vote at the end of that meeting in May of last year was not made in a public meeting, so we are here today at the directive of the Superior Court to revote in a public meeting,” Blalock said.
A Superior Court judge ruled in December that a secret vote voided the outcome of a May 23, 2013, termination hearing, and the board convened in April to publicly reaffirm the termination. But that didn’t fully remedy the board’s noncompliance with the law, said Homans, who brought to Sartain’s attention the failure to notify the public of the April 16 hearing, as required by the Open Records Act.
Homans said Blalock, who disputed his denied motion to recuse board members from the vote, had essentially affirmed there was a violation.
“Apparently it is conceded that there was a violation of the Open Meetings Act in connection with the meeting on April 16,” Homans said. “All parties concede there was a violation.”
And that’s “not the end of the story,” Homans said.
“The code provides that there are potential sanctions for violating the Open Meetings Act. ... And it can be enforced by a private party, which we’ve been forced to file,” Homans said. “That remains pending. I’ve not had it served. I’ve not pursued it. But we filed it to protect our position.”
Homans told The Times that possible consequences from the violation would then taint the position of his client.
“My contention is he’s got due process rights, and since there’s a potential bias, (the board members) should no longer be able to vote regarding the appeal of his termination,” he said.
After a brief executive session, the board reaffirmed McGehee’s firing in another unanimous vote.
McGehee said he has fought his termination through administrative recourse as he simultaneously fights the criminal charges levied against him on Feb. 7, 2013, stemming from an alleged domestic violence incident.
“I am not giving up on this matter until I have my day in court on that matter,” he said.
McGehee was charged with two counts of simple battery, one count of disorderly conduct and obstruction of an officer after an incident at his home on Dunagan Road. The Hall County Sheriff’s Office responded after McGehee’s stepson called 911 to report a fight between McGehee, his wife and another stepson.
The case was last placed on the May 19 criminal calendar, but has continually been delayed, he said.