Fulton County government has announced that its regular Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday will take place over the phone instead of in person because of the coronavirus.
Public meetings are times when elected officials, especially amid a deadly international pandemic, can make decisions that affect the lives of everyone.
Attorney General Chris Carr in an email highlighting Sunshine Week, which celebrates the state’s open records laws, noted that cities are facing a challenge of adhering to the records laws as this coronavirus disrupts daily life.
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He said the Georgia Municipal Association has guidelines for officials saying public meetings can be held over teleconference as long as the rules are followed.
But even if leaders meet, the agenda might not be very extensive.
“It would be wise for city leaders to consider agenda items when contemplating this provision and to postpone discussion items that can wait and are not necessary to be deliberated and/or voted on under such emergency conditions,” according to advice from GMA.
Fulton’s news release said people will still be able to voice their opinions during public comment on Wednesday.
The county said it is taking this step in line with state and federal guidance to not hold large public gatherings and keep at least six feet away from each other to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Practicing social distancing and good hygiene is important for public officials, who come into contact with people all day as part of their role.
That was recently underscored in South Florida, where a day before Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced he tested positive for COVID-19, a video produced by the Miami Herald shows “he came in close contact with top city leaders during a commission meeting. Officials could be seen touching their own faces, which could spread the virus.” The Herald then reported that at least four commissioners were isolating themselves.
Fulton’s commissioners on Wednesday will cast votes electronically while on the conference call.
Members of the public can access the meeting at 1-877-336-4441 using the access code 2437244.
“Public comment may be submitted online until the time that the public comment portion of the meeting is sounded by the clerk. Public comment will be included in the meeting record,” according to the news release.
You can view the meeting agenda by clicking here.
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