A Lebanon woman says Lebanon’s City Council violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act several times.
This same woman, Lorrie Hicks, reportedly said the Lebanon City Council has barred her from entering a city council meeting.
According to the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government’s website, Hicks wants city officials to get training on the law and reconsider their actions on a recent rezoning decision.
“Lorrie Hicks, through her attorney Paul McAdoo, has sent a letter to the Mayor Bernie Ash of the Lebanon City Council, explaining the alleged violations. She told TCOG she has not yet heard back from the city, although the mayor was quoted in the local newspaper as saying he had turned over her letter to the city attorney,” according to the TCOG’s website.
Reportedly, this is the result of emails Ward 3 Councilor Camille Burdine sent pertaining to rezoning requests in a residential neighborhood.
“Hicks says the emails constituted deliberation with other council members about an issue to be voted upon, which would be prohibited under the open meetings law. Emails between members of governing body cannot be used to deliberate outside open meeting,” according to the TCOG.
“The open meetings statute prohibits using electronic communication to ‘decide or deliberate public business in circumvention of the spirit or requirements’ of the Open Meetings Act.”
The TCOG went on to quote the Court of Appeals in Johnston v. Metro. Gov’t of Nashville & Davidson County (2009).
According to that case, “emails sent by members of a governing body to other members violated the Open Meetings Act because they constituted deliberation.”
“The Johnston case also involved a residential zoning issue, and the Court, looking at the content of the emails, found that some emails constituted deliberation, while others did not,” the TCOG reported.
“Deliberation has been defined by the Courts as ‘to examine and consult in order to form an opinion’ and ‘[t]o weigh arguments for and against a proposed course of action.’”
Read the letter:BUTLER_Ltr-to-City-of-Lebanon-open-meetings
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Photo “Mayor Bernie Ash” by the City of Lebanon.