By: Angela Gary
The Banks County News
February 13, 2002
In the back corner of the closet in my bedroom is a shoe box covered with white tissue paper. It has red construction paper hearts pasted on it and ³Happy Valentineıs Day² scrawled across the side of it.
Inside this tattered box is 20 or so small Valentine cards with messages such as ³Be mine.² The cards are signed with the names of my friends from 20 years or more ago. Many names I remember fondly. Others leave my mind blank as I canıt remember the face to go with the name. I guess thatıs another sign of old age.
In those days, the small Valentine cards were about the extent of the spending for the Feb. 14 holiday. Today, you can find hearts on everything from night shirts to T-shirts to boxer shorts.
Valentineıs Day has become another day where commercialism has taken over the holiday. Now I enjoy flowers and chocolate as mush as the next person, but it should also still be a day where we take time to reflect on those we love.
I love you....Itıs three words that we are too busy to say as much as we should, but it is important that our family and friends know what they mean to us. I encourage everyone to remind those who are special to them that they are loved as this special holiday is observed. Most people remember their husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend on Valentineıs Day, but do they remember the others who are special to them? If not, they should.
Topping the list of my loved ones is, of course, my parents. Our parents are often the most neglected when it comes to telling them how much we appreciate them. My parents have supported me in whatever I want to do, whether itıs a crazy idea like going to South America for a month or heading off on a tour bus with a bunch of strangers to follow a country star across the country or flying to New York City for one day to be in the audience of a popular talk show. No matter how crazy it sounds, they support me.
Thanks Mama and Daddy, I love you.
In between the chocolate and roses of this holiday season, be sure to tell those you love how important they are to you. It doesnıt cost anything and it will mean the world to them.
Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News and associate editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Banks County News
February 13, 2002
Elected officials need to know Open Meetings Law
The Georgia Open Meetings law is quite clear on when an elected board can go behind closed doors to discuss public business. The only three legal reasons for shutting out the public to meet in private are real estate, litigation and personnel. The law is also very specific on what can be discussed under these three topics.
Discussions on real estate should be limited to negotiations on specific purchase prices or selling prices for property. It is understandable that these discussions can be handled in private until a decision is made. Letting prices out could jeopardize a deal the board is working on by leading to a hike in the asking price. When the deals are complete, the numbers become public.
Discussions on personnel should be limited to firing and hiring specific individuals and disciplinary matters. Too many boards stretch this to mean that any discussion dealing with employees is acceptable, but this just isnıt the case. Meeting behind closed doors to discuss general job descriptions, salaries and other personnel issues is simply illegal.
The litigation issue is the most abused of the three closed sessions topics. Some councils, under the advice of their attorneys, believe ³pending litigation² can mean any time a board is afraid it might be sued. This is ridiculous. Anything can be pending litigation because every action taken by a board is open to a lawsuit. The law clearly states that a board must have concrete evidence that a lawsuit has been filed, such as a letter or other legal documents.
Stretching the open meeting law has become commonplace in some governing bodies in Banks County and it is time for it to stop.
One recent example came in Gillsville in which residents who are party to a lawsuit were allowed to go into a closed session. This is not allowed under the Georgia Open Meetings Act.
David Hudson of Hull, Towill, Norman, Barrett & Salley of Augusta, the legal attorney for the Georgia Press Association, said that: ³Once they (the city council) bring in outsiders, everyone has to be admitted.²
If situations such as this occur in the future, members of the public should refuse to leave the meeting.
Civil disobedience in the face of illegal actions by government agencies are warranted when the government agencies abuse that public trust.