On Monday, Ward 7 Marietta Councilman, Phillip Goldstein accused Marietta Mayor Bill Dunaway of failing to disclose, on the sworn affidavit Dunaway signs after each executive session, issues the Council discusses in executive session that the Open Meetings Act requires to be discussed in public.The Cobb and State edition of today’s MDJ has a great summary of what happened last night at the City Council meeting. Essentially, Goldstein accused Mayor Dunaway of not disclosing all the matters discussed at two previous city council meetings over the summer in the required signed affidavits.
According to the MDJ article, “Dunaway accused Goldstein of blindsiding him with the accusations when the media was present, rather than coming to him in private. Dunaway also said Goldstein had never complained about the affidavits he filled out before.“.
Here’s the full story – what are your thoughts?
What sparked the issue is when Goldstein objected to approving the minutes of a previous meeting because he said Dunaway failed to disclose improper discussions that took place in that previous meeting’s executive session.
As Dunaway rose to defend himself, Councilman Van Pearlberg, a deputy district attorney, gave him a warning.
“Mr. Mayor, before you comment, let me tell you something. What Mr. Goldstein is basically saying is a crime was committed. He hasn’t said it, but as I understand, isn’t that correct that it’s a misdemeanor offense?” Pearlberg asked City Attorney Doug Haynie.
Haynie said the offense, if it happened, is a misdemeanor.
“So, you know, if you’re going to talk, you’re going to talk at your own peril, so you may just want to say nothing,” Pearlberg advised Dunaway.
After each executive session, Dunaway, as presiding officer, is required to sign an affidavit listing what that executive session was about – real estate, for example – and if anything was discussed in the meeting in addition to that topic, Goldstein said.
Goldstein cited two instances, one on July 7 and one on Aug. 11, when he said Dunaway failed to list topics discussed in executive session that were not matters the council initially went into the closed-door meeting to discuss.
During the Aug. 11 meeting, Goldstein said the council entered executive session to discuss a real estate matter, but Dunaway failed to list on his affidavit other matters discussed in that meeting, such as questions about the budget, discussion of whether they were able to discuss a particular item in executive session, remarks about the Strand Theatre and Marietta Housing Authority member Bill Hagemann and discussion of real estate already bought.
“There were about four or five instances of issues that came up during the executive session that, from my standpoint, I don’t believe were appropriate and those should be noted on the affidavit,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein was so bothered by the improper use of executive session at the time, that he said he left the executive session meeting.
“At that meeting I became frustrated enough to leave and asked to be called back in the room when we were back on executive session topics, and I was out at least a couple of minutes before I was called back in and again none of these things were noted as being gone into or covered. The only thing that is noted on the affidavit is an executive session that we went in for real estate only to discuss the purchase of real estate,” Goldstein said.
“I have the same concern I had last month, which is if we stray from topics in executive session in the affidavit those things should be mentioned, whether you’re covering it in a broad sense or a more specific sense, they shouldn’t be ignored in a affidavit,” he said.
Councilman Anthony Coleman asked Haynie if Goldstein was correct in his charges, to which Haynie responded that he agreed with Goldstein on some points but not on others. Haynie said there were questions raised in the Aug. 11 executive session, such as the budget, but they were prevented from being discussed at length. Haynie said the proper remedy for dealing with improper conversation in executive session is to ensure that it stops immediately, which is what was done.
“I don’t recall any inappropriate discussion that was allowed to continue in that executive session,” Haynie said.
Dunaway accused Goldstein of blindsiding him with the accusations when the media was present, rather than coming to him in private. Dunaway also said Goldstein had never complained about the affidavits he filled out before.
“He’s now trying to hold me and the City Council to a standard that has never been put forth in my almost eight years as Mayor,” Dunaway said.
Dunaway said he agreed with Haynie that if a council member began discussing something in executive session that was inappropriate, they should be stopped from continuing.
“(Goldstein) never held anybody to that standard before until now, for whatever reason, for whatever purpose, and I do resent that,” Dunaway told the council, saying he plans to fully respond to the charges at a later time.