On Saturday, Brian Hornback posted this – click right smack here – about Commissioner Amy Broyles and what he – and quite a few people at the Deathstar today who read his blog – felt was a possible Sunshine law violation.
You know? That little rule you’re supposed to follow when you’re a commissioner and you want to hang out with your buds and not get in trouble.
Here’s the deal I got from talking to commissioners: Broyles, who was in the hospital recently, wanted to catch up on some of the recent audit committee discussions. So, she sent some folks this email:
“Commissioners Amy Broyles and Ed Shouse will meet at Panera Bread in Bearden (4855 Kingston Pike) on Sunday, September 25, at 3:00pm. Other Commissioners may be present. The public and press are invited.”
(Shouse, by the way, is a member of the audit committee.)
I got the email at 4:52 p.m. Friday, according to my delete folder where I dug it out of because that’s what I do with those things. Because I’m immature that way. Heh. (OK, that wasn’t fair. I have actually gone to one of Broyle’s meetings.)
It appears Amy sent that to me personally. Going back through the junk box of bad boys I also found the exact same email sent to me again, but this one was at 8:18 a.m. Saturday. It also included a bunch of other email addresses. So, lots of people got it. On Saturday.
At issue is whether the meeting was adequately publicly noticed. I don’t recall seeing it on the county’s Web site, but who checks that thing anyway?
I asked Joe Jarret, the county’s law director, about it during today’s commission luncheon and he said Tennessee Code says officials need to give “reasonable public notice.”
And there is the problem. What’s reasonable? Jarret felt 48 hours was a good number.
He also emailed me this during the luncheon:
Mike, here's the latest analysis:
What constitutes adequate public notice depends on the totality of the circumstances. In Memphis Publishing Company v. City of Memphis, 513 S.W.2d 511, 513 (Tenn. 1974), the Tennessee Supreme Court declared that, "[a]dequate public notice means adequate public notice under the circumstances, or such notice based on the totality of the circumstances as would fairly inform the public." See also Neece v. Paris Special School District, 813 S.W.2d 432 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1990).
Mike, based upon the above, the courts have issued inconsistent rulings. If a court ruled that notice was inadequate, then any action taken by the members present, presuming they had a quorum, would be considered void and of no effect.
Hornback got a similar email. Check it out right smack here. Jarret also reiterated to him the 48-hour thing.
Oh yeah – almost forgot. Broyles and Shouse did meet for several hours. They were joined by Commissioners Richard “The good doctor” Briggs and Dave Wright. In addition, radio talk dude Hubert Smith and Dan “the man” Andrews were there.
The group talked about audit stuff and then the proposed Carter Elementary School.
Anyhoo, I talked to Wright about the meeting and he said “it wasn’t kosher” that Broyles didn’t give more than 48 hour notice. He said “someone” called him Saturday to give him a heads up about the meeting.
Commission Chairman Mike Hammond agreed.
“I want to talk with Joe Jarret about this,” he said. “We need to get some clarification. When we do these things, someone has to take notes and there has to be an agenda. It’s probably time to have Joe weigh in on this again and refresh us.”
He also said he wants to put it on the chairman’s luncheon next month. (The commission meets for lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on commission meeting days. Yes, they are adequately notified.)
Commissioner Jeff Ownby, who was with Wright and Hammond when I approached them about this, said he didn’t get a notification until 7:50 p.m. Friday, but he didn’t see it until Saturday.
Shouse said he got his some time Friday but he’d “prefer a 72-hour” advance notification.
None of the commissioners I spoke to said they felt there was a violation, but they weren’t exactly thrilled at the timing of the email.
I also talked very briefly with Amy about it. She didn’t seem concerned, and said that she had a number of email addresses on hand, so she sent them out as soon as she could Friday; and then later that night – when she had rounded up all her other addresses – sent out another email. (She also made a comment during the luncheon that the meeting was "sunshined".)
So, you can decide whether the commissioners violated the Sunshine law. Keep in mind that it wouldn’t just be Broyles. Although she sent out the email, three other commissioners attended the meeting.
I’m just glad they didn’t vote.
Credit goes to the rogue for pointing this out. Also, Dan Andrews has a video of the meeting but was having problems uploading it to Youtube, since it was too large of a file. He said he might be able to upload it later. If so, I'll post a link to it.
If it's as riveting as most commission meetings, I'm sure you'll all watch it.