A victory for transparency in government

Best to record those votes! So said the Georgia Supreme Court last month.

G.G. Rigsby wrote for SavannahNow 6 February 2012, Court ruling favors openness in government

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Monday that votes taken in open meetings must be recorded, even if they are not roll-call votes.

The decision in Cardinale v. the City of Atlanta reverses a Court of Appeals ruling that the state’s open meetings law doesn’t require meeting minutes to reflect how members voted when the vote is not unanimous.

Matthew Cardinale filed a lawsuit against the City of Atlanta for failing to record how each city council member voted when a non-roll-call vote was taken at a February 2010 retreat.

Hm, the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners is meeting in retreat this weekend. Maybe they’ll keep good minutes.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein said, “While the act provides for public access to agency meetings, it also fosters openness by, among other things, requiring agencies to generate meeting minutes that are open to public inspection so that members of the public unable to attend a meeting nonetheless may learn what occurred. …To adopt a contrary holding that agencies possess discretion to decline to record the names of those voting against a proposal or abstaining in the case of a non-roll-call vote would potentially deny non-attending members of the public access to information available to those who attended a meeting.”

Earlier this year, Effingham County’s commissioners took a secret ballot for vice chairman. At their next meeting, after questions from a reporter, they said how they voted so the information could be included in the minutes for the meeting.

The secret vote in Effingham was an indication that the case that was pending before the state Supreme Court was important, Cardinale said.

Effingham County… ah, yes! The county whose Industrial Authority fired Brad Lofton for non-transparent dealings.

Doubtless everything is on the up-and-up around here, so I’m sure all the local government bodies, elected and unelected, will have no problem recording how all their members vote.