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Verdict in lawsuit against Habersham officials will take time
Members of Airport Authority accused of holding secret meetings
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A verdict in a lawsuit alleging that the Habersham County Board of Commissioners and Habersham County Airport Authority violated open meetings and records laws is not likely for another 30 to 45 days, according to Gainesville attorney Julius Hulsey.

The non-jury trial before Senior Judge Robert Struble began Monday in Clarkesville.

Hulsey, who represents the residents and government employee whistleblowers who brought the suit, said late Tuesday that he expects to call his final witnesses this week. 

“This has become a classic Sunshine Law case every government official ought to observe,” Hulsey told The Times. “It contains all the new technology governments are faced with and how to deal with such problems.”

The Airport Authority is 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 claims 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.

The Attorney General’s office and the First Amendment Foundation have been informed of the case, according to Hulsey. 

Commissioners and members of the Airport Authority have denied the allegations against them, and have requested that the court deny plaintiffs’ claims and “enter an order finding no violations of the Open Meetings Act with regard to the executive session minutes.”

Hulsey said the case has 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 cell phone and evidence that could have implicated him in deflating footballs to gain a competitive advantage.

Hulsey said he will have 10 days to file a post-trial brief and proposed resolution once the court transcript is complete.

County officials, as defendants, will then have 10 days to respond.

Then the judge will rule.

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