East Point Mayor Earnestine Pittman met this week with state Attorney General Sam Olens about possible violations of the Open Meetings Act by five members of the City Council.
“I wanted to discuss the possible violations with him personally, but I know a ruling won’t come for a while,” Pittman said.
The alleged violations involve City Council members communicating through email about agenda items for council meetings. Pittman became aware of the emails in late April, and the investigation was launched in early May.
“Five East Point City Council members violated the Sunshine Law when they decided via email how they were going to control the council meetings, and hence determine what items would be placed on the council agenda,” Pittman wrote on her website in early May.
When the emails were discovered, Laura Borders, a member of the East Point Building Authority, asked the attorney general to step in and investigate the possible violations.
Pittman said Council members Steve Bennett, Lance Rhodes, Sharonda Hubbard, Clyde Mitchell and Jackie Slaughter-Gibbons used the email communication to conspire and control what happens in the city.
“The ‘Gang of Five’ knows how they are going to vote on every issue before coming to the meetings. They make no effort to have an open and honest discussion on any issue,” Pittman said.
The East Point City Council has eight members.
After the allegations surfaced, council members denied violating the law, and City Attorney Nina Hickson sent a response to the attorney general’s office.
In her letter, Hickson said the email communication is not a meeting as defined by the Open Meetings Act and denied any violations of the act. She wrote the email represents a “one-sided communication to less than a quorum of the City Council’s members in which the writer discusses implementation of certain Rules of the City Council as contained in Section 2-2002 of the East Point Code of Ordinances.”
Pittman said the unity of the five members through email messages and council votes this year is sending a “chilling message.”
“They are a corrupting force that needs to be replaced or changed.”