Connecting the Dots
When I first saw the news about the Flowery Branch City Council “admonishing” one of their own via a censure, I was struck on how the story was twisted to show this as an action concerning Commissioner Lutz. I think there is a story and I think I finally figured it out.
You have to go back a few months to see the issue building. The tip line received an e-mail concerning the sewer plant on Spout Springs. It looks like Lutz was trying to get Flowery Branch involved, but I did not see the whole story at the time. When I asked about the relationship between Lutz and the Mayor, my source told me that he heard that there might have been some betrayal at the beginning of the year. We later received a tip that the issue may have been with Council member Richards because of her employer. It looks like we were on the wrong scent.
As it turns out, the falling out between Lutz and the Branch started back on January 6th. When one of the Council members “who blocked out the name before sending documents to The Times… responded to Lutz about Lutz’s handling of the Hall County resignations.” So a Council member sent an e-mail to the press. Evidently, when it happened again on April 6th, Lutz wanted to know who the leak was, so he did an Open Records Request to find out who the betrayer might have been.
O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(a) describes an open record as “all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, computer based or generated information, or similar material prepared and maintained or received in the course of the operation of a public office or agency.” The violation of the Open Records Act does come with a penalty; “O.C.G.A. § 50-18-74 (a) Any person knowingly and willfully violating the provisions of this article by failing or refusing to provide access to records not subject to exemption from this article or by failing or refusing to provide access to such records within the time limits set forth in this article shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $100.00.”
The Truth has obtained a copy of the three e-mails sent from Council member Richards to the Gainesville Times where she tried to to direct the news story. It is easy to read tone into the e-mails, but after telling the Times that “Craig may have screwed his own cause…” and contemplating that there “might not be all that ethical/legal in the bid process to solicit IGA’s after you put a RFP out for private bid”, I can see why she didn’t want to share her e-mails in the Open Records Request. However, the law is the law.
It looks like there are politics to be played at all levels of government and the local level can be the dirtiest. The question becomes, why did the Times not write themselves into the story more because it seems like that were a major contributor or at least a player. Time will tell if the relationship between the Flowery Branch and the Commissioner will improve.
Hugh Hall County Akston