Hahira City Council is going to act on a resolution tonight, but The Valdosta Daily Times cannot provide readers the details.
The mayor and the city manager said the document related to a special election to fill a council seat could not be released until it was approved by Council. They refused to release it to the newspaper beforehand.
However, the Georgia Open Records Act has no provisions that allow a government to withhold pending resolutions or other working documents related to agenda items.
The overall intent of state law is to keep governmental records and meetings open to the public. The rules are designed to make the closing of doors and the withholding of information the exceptions, not the norm.
Yet many elected leaders, administrators and municipal lawyers often look at it in the opposite way. They quickly invoke one of the three standard reasons to close meetings: litigation, personnel or real estate acquisition. We're sure in many cases the reasons are legitimate and fit the law, but the frequency at which meetings and records are closed to the public makes us think the laws are either misunderstood or abused.
Elected leaders, such as those in Hahira, should want to keep their doors and records open, and make every effort to have that happen. Certainly, the text of a proposed resolution regarding a special election for Council should be made available so that the citizens of Hahira know what action is being considered.
The ideal is to give constituents the opportunity to express their opinions of proposals to elected leaders before action is taken. A council or school board proposes items in work sessions and acts on them in regular sessions. This makes for good government.
We urge local leaders in Hahira and elsewhere to seek ways to inform citizens of the pending decisions they may make on their behalf.
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