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Stone Mountain considers hiring temp staff to deal with councilmember’s records request

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Stone Mountain considers hiring temp staff to deal with councilmember’s records request

Gil Freeman

This story has been updated.

Stone Mountain, GA — At its Nov. 21 work session, the Stone Mountain City Council discussed bringing on temporary staff to deal with Councilmember Gil Freeman’s open records request

The council approved Freeman’s request for records pertaining to the Downtown Development Authority during a special called meeting on Nov. 3. The vote was split and Mayor Beverly Jones cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of moving forward with it.

There was debate during the Nov. 21 meeting about how easy this temporary staff would be to train and or hire, which brought attention to the atypical nature of Councilmember Freeman’s records request.

The council was slightly unclear as to the administrative mechanism through which the original request was made. 

As it stands, Councilmember Freemans request is explicitly not a request for a report to be compiled at the behest of council. This was an option presented to him during an Oct. 17 meeting that he elected not to pursue. 

Instead, Councilman Freeman specifically made an Open records request. Which means the request is subject to the restrictions and provisions outlined by GA Code § 50-18-71 and 72.  

It may seem like a bit of a semantic difference, but essentially, the first of these options would have allowed staff to exercise their professional discretion in collecting information and creating a report, but by making it a formal Open Records Request, there are specific bureaucratic “processes and procedures” that have to be followed while collecting and reporting information. 

Any temporary staff hired then, in order to properly comply with the Georgia Open Records Act, would need to be familiar with the law, making the addition of new staff to help with Councilmember Freeman’s request a less straightforward solution.

Councilmembers Freeman and Clint Monroe insisted, despite the city manager, city clerk and city attorney informing them otherwise, that there was something that could be done differently that would make the process more efficient. Monroe suggested refining the search to just look for the “meta-data” and Freeman continued to criticize the city clerk for organizing the report, saying he was just looking for a “Data dump.”

Councilmember Freeman moved for action on this item in the work session, but the motion died from lack of a second. 

In other council business:

— The council heard a first read of a rezoning request for a set of townhouses to be built on an empty lot at 6803 James B. Rivers Memorial Drive. The applicant had been approved in 2004, but the townhouses were never built. They reapplied in 2020 and were denied, but have since sat down with city staff and retooled their application. There are 14 conditions for approval, including mandating the developer adhere to best practice on stormwater management, limiting the property to 12 residential units and the development of an HOA for the properties to perform and levy fees for maintenance. Also, proposed commercial developments on the site were removed, making the site residential only. 

— The council also voted not to accept the 2024 Healthy City Campaign Grant in the amount of $30,000 to accompany an outdoor fitness court. The city would have to pay around $160,000 for park improvements to qualify for the grant, but this money would have come from sales tax funds. Mayor Jones sided with Councilmembers Freeman, Monroe and Bryant in voting against accepting the grant, citing “not enough information”. 

— The council also discussed a proposal to amend the city charter section specifying “terms and qualification for office” to include language that prohibits family members to serve on council simultaneously. This amendment is targeted at what Councilmember Freeman deemed “an incestuous consolidation of influence under one household.” The amendment was tabled to give the city attorney time to look into the legality of the restriction. As well as make the language a bit clearer as to which “councils” are being referred to. 

— The council awarded a contract to A&S Paving at the amount of $1,199,484.10. This is for finishing the first round of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) street re-pavements.

— The council purchased piping materials for $22,456 from Southeast Culvert Inc. for road projects across the city. With this, there was an update from Jonathan Eggleston on the status of the initial storm water sinkhole repairs. The controversial sinkhole at 682 Rockborough Drive has been filled, along with one on Churchill Court. Several others are waiting on the delivery of materials. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the cost of park improvements. This story has been updated with the correct information. 

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