Dogs and cats on agenda, but absent commissioners force Fulton to cancel meeting

If Fulton County commissioners schedule a meeting in the government center, but a majority of the seven-member commission fails to show up, does the meeting really exist?

The commission found itself facing this existential, somewhat embarrassing, question Wednesday after the body's regularly scheduled meeting lasted just long enough for Commission Chairman Robb Pitts to declare it wouldn't happen.

The chairman pounded his gavel at 10:03 a.m. Wednesday. Then, he and two other commissioners, Marvin Arrington and Lee Morris, along with a handful of citizens, waited for 30 minutes to see if any of the other members would appear. At 10:33 a.m., with no word from three of the four absent commissioners, Pitts declared the meeting cancelled without any business accomplished.

Pitts didn't seem to mind. He said he was able to get to a meeting of the Atlanta Regional Commission that he otherwise would not have been able to attend.

“We’re good,” he said. “It’s not a problem. It happens sometimes.”

Pitts said he didn’t have any indication before he arrived Wednesday that there wouldn’t be a quorum of four commissioners required to hold the meeting. Harriet Thomas, Pitts’ chief of staff, said only Commissioner Natalie Hall had indicated ahead of time that she wouldn’t be there.

Fulton County commissioners make between $43,769 and $49,740 annually, depending on their tenure and experience.

In addition to Hall, Commissioners Liz Hausmann and Emma Darnell, as well as Vice Chairman Bob Ellis, were not present at Wednesday’s scheduled meeting. Hausmann did not respond to a phone call Wednesday seeking comment. Renee Starzyk, a spokesperson for Ellis, said he had “other things going on.” She didn’t elaborate in a voice message to a reporter.

For her part, Darnell acknowledged she’s chronically late to meetings. She said a nagging foot injury that requires her to use a cane — she calls it a “stick” — made it even more difficult for her to arrive on time. She said she was on her way to the meeting when she learned it was cancelled.

“I’m late to every board meeting,” she said. “I don’t set aside time for 15 proclamations. There’s other things I could be doing.”

Darnell said she was embarrassed that the commission had cancelled one of the two meetings held each month. If Darnell — or any of the other absent commissioners — had arrived at all, the meeting would have moved forward.

“Obviously, we had business we could have taken care of,” she said.

The commission agenda for Wednesday included various purchase agreements, discussion of the 2019 budget, raises for the county election board members and discussion of proposed restrictions on pet stores selling cats and dogs. Far away in Washington, the funeral celebrating the life and public service of George H.W. Bush was taking place at almost the same time the commision was supposed to meet.

Commissioner Morris, a Republican, found it appropriate the commission cancelled its business so the focus could be on the 41st president.

“I was perfectly happy, given it was a national day of mourning, not to have a meeting in the first place,” Morris said. “We haven’t had too many presidents. When one of them passes away, I’m perfectly happy to pause.”