Clarkston resident challenges closed council meeting; city joins opioid settlement agreement

Clarkston City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated. 

Clarkston, GA — At the Clarkston City Council’s regular meeting on April 6, Clarkston resident Brian Medford stated that a joint meeting of council committees held on March 28 included a quorum of council members but did not conform to rules about such meetings.

According to the Georgia Open Records Act, meetings of municipal governing bodies, among other entities, which include a quorum of voting members and where public business is voted on or discussed must be announced publicly and the public must be granted access to attend and to inspect records of the meeting, with some specific exceptions allowed by law. Executive sessions pertaining to legal or personnel matters are excepted, but they must be announced ahead of time.

Medford stated that he requested a video recording of the meeting and was told that no recording existed. He then requested any emails, notes, or documents pertaining to the meeting, to which the city has not yet responded. “This is a violation of the Open Records Act,” said Medford.

Medford added that the subcommittees of the city council are supposed to have citizen members appointed by the council, but that the meeting was not attended by any citizen members and to his knowledge there are none.  Some members of the public did attend the meeting.

The City of Clarkston released a statement saying that they have since made notes from the meeting available to the public, and have put internal measures in place to make sure that future meetings where a quorum of council members are in place will be appropriately announced as special meetings of the city council.

In other business:

– The City Council approved a resolution to participate in the State of Georgia’s memorandum of understanding concerning distribution of the Johnson and Johnson opioid settlement. Under the agreement, local governments may receive funding for opioid addiction treatment and prevention.

– A report on Clarkston’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts was given by City Manager Shawanna Qawiy. Qawiy stated that Clarkston’s vaccination rate is 20% higher than any other comparable community in DeKalb County, and 8% higher than the Georgia average.

– The city authorized a “living urn” tree planting at Friendship Forest remembering longtime Clarkston resident Blanche Hardy. Hardy, who was born in 1953 and grew up in Clarkston, wished to have her cremated ashes scattered in Friendship Forest and to have a native dogwood planted at the site.

The city’s resolution, sponsored by Vice Mayor Awet Eyasu, stipulates that the tree must be a native species. A stone marker is not allowed, but family and friends of Ms. Hardy may install a bench with an inscription near the tree.

– An alcohol license was requested by goPuff D/B/A GB License, LLC. The business, located at 808 Park North Boulevard in Clarkston, will deliver alcohol in accordance with recent changes in Georgia law.

“We have a moratorium on new brick and mortar locations for alcohol, while this being delivery is not really different,” said Eyasu. He suggested that the council should either reject this application or drop the moratorium.  The motion passed with one abstention by Eyasu.

– The city made several decisions related to SPLOST projects, including approval of the cost estimate from VOLKERT, Inc. for the SPLOST 09 Mell Avenue crossing project. Change orders to SPLOST 04 Rowland Street and Mell Avenue traffic calming and SPLOST 08 Market Street resurfacing and sidewalk expansion were also made.

– A change order to the SPLOST 04 B&C Rowland Street road diet and Hill Street resurfacing project was made. Councilmember Jamie Hill moved that the council approve milling and resurfacing without striping, pending public discussion about design revisions. The motion was approved as amended.

– The city awarded a contract to Sears Pool Management Consulting, Inc. for management of the pool at Milam Park.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the meeting on March 28 was closed and that no residents of the city attended.

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