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5-8-09 Lawsuits, Executive Sessions, Open Meetings & Oconee BOC

2008 County Audit report lists the lawsuits dealt with in Fiscal Year 2007-8. See letter of County Attorney Daniel Haygood dated January 5, 2009. Oconee County Law Suits 2008 Audit

AVOC

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May 7, 2009

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Lawsuits, Executive Sessions, Open Meetings & Oconee BOC

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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All of us value our privacy.   Most public officials like to avoid having to take a public stand on issues with which they are charged to handle.   This desire has turned into a habitual Agenda Item for Executive Sessions.   The law allows some matters to be discussed in executive session:

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  1. Pending litigation or potential litigation;
  2. Personnel matters dealing with employees (not citizen committee appointments);
  3. Purchase of real estate.

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SEE: Georgia Open Meetings Law O.C.G. A. § 50-14-1, 50-14-2, 50-14-3 & 50-14-4

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These matters have been broadened to allow much to go on outside the view and hearing of the public and media.   A vote of the Board is required to go into Executive Session and the nature of the matter to be discussed should be disclosed.   The Board then must come back into open session and vote to end the session and to adjourn the meeting.   There should be a record of matters dealt with.

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Citizens could feel more confidence in our government if it is more open.   There should be more public disclosure of these matters.Oconee County holds a lot of Executive Sessions.Sources say that since January 1, 2009, only two personnel matters and one land acquisition issue has been subject of a Session.    Most of the Executive Sessions deal with a plethora of lawsuits.

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Other jurisdictions have been more forthcoming about lawsuits.   A recent media article described how the Jackson County Commissioners openly discussed negotiations of a Federal Lawsuit pending against the County.   SEE AB-H ARTICLE OF 5.6.09

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AVOC has a copy of a letter in the 2008 County Audit report that lists the lawsuits dealt with in Fiscal Year 2007-8.   See letter of County Attorney Daniel Haygood dated January 5, 2009.

Oconee County Law Suits – 2008 Audit

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Oconee County Lawsuit List .Audit.2008.Partial.Pendings.5.8.09

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1. Michelle McClung v. Oconee County, et.al., U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia,
Civil Action File No.: 3:08-CV-38 (CDL): In this case, plaintiff has contended that plaintiff's constitutional
and legal rights were violated when she was denied promotions within the Oconee County Sheriff's Office. She also claims that after having filed an administrative charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she was retaliated against in various ways for having pursued her legal rights to complain about unlawful discrimination. An answer denying the material allegations of the complaint has been filed, and the parties are in the process of conferring in order to present a proposed scheduling order for the consideration of the court. Once a scheduling order is entered, the parties may then conduct discovery. It is the intention of Oconee County and the other defendants, Sheriff Scott Berry and Jail Commander Chuck Johnson, to vigorously defend the case. The County is covered by ACCG-lRMA, and Andrew H. Marshall, Begnaud and Marshall, LLP, is defending the claim.

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2. Plant A Seed v. Oconee County, Superior Court of Oconee County, Civil Action File No. 2006-CV.
0571-.J: This is an appeal from the County's denial of a rezoning application and does not seek monetary
damages other than attorney's fees and costs. Although negotiations had been ongoing concerning this matter, there has been no action in over a year. Should the plaintiff desire to pursue its project in the future, the Count) intends to vigorously defend the action.

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3. Greeson v. Oconee County, Superior Court of Oconee County, Civil Action File No. 2006-CV-415·
J:This is a zoning suit arising out of the denial of the rezone application on the trailer park land in front of
Tanglebrook Subdivision. The Complaint does not seek damages (other than attorneys fees and costs), but only rezoning of the property. Mediation was held in May 2007. Since that time, the plaintiff has been examining options for redesigning the project, to make it more acceptable to the County. Should the plaintiff desire to pursue his project in the future, the County intends to vigorously defend the action.

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4. Edward D. Sumner Co. and Joe Milligan v. Oconee County, Georgia, et.al., Superior Court of
Oconee County, Civil Action File No.: 2006-CV-0800-S: This is a zoning suit arising out of the denial of an
application to rezone land on Jimmy Daniel Road from A-I to O-l-P. Suit was filed December 27, 2006. The primary issue has concerned access to the proposed development. Should the plaintiff desire to pursue its project in the future, the County intends to vigorously defend the action.

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5. Fred Gunter Property, LLC v. Oconee County, Georgia, Superior Court of Oconee County, Civil
Action No. 2007-CV-0429-S: This is an appeal from the denial of are zoning application, filed on July 19, 2007.A timely answer was filed on September 14, 2007. No monetary damages are sought other than attorney's fees and costs. The County intends to vigorously defend the action.

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6. Travis A. Marshall v. Oconee County, Georgia, Superior Court Of Oconee County, Civil Action
No.: 2008-CV -0620-S: This is an appeal from the denial of a rezoning application, filed on or about August 28, 2008. Service was perfected several days later, and a timely answer was filed on September 25, 2008. No monetary damages are sought other than attorney's fees and costs. Discovery has just begun in this matter.Should the plaintiff desire to pursue his project, the County intends to vigorously defend the action.

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7. James R. Snellgrove, Jr., v. State Of Georgia, Oconee County, and Angela Watson (Clerk).
Superior Court Of Oconee County, Civil Action File No. 2008-CV-0260-S: This is a pro se habeas corpus
petition filed by a state convict. The relief he seeks is unclear (as is often the case with such filings). A motion to dismiss has been filed, and is expected to be granted.

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8. Miscellaneous: Michael C. Pruett, Hall, Booth, Smith & Slover, P.C., is also handling a number of
appeals to Superior Court concerning ad valorem taxation issues, none of which involve claims for monetary damages.

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For more info, see:

Oconee.Cty.LawSuit.List.08.Audit.Ltr.Cty.Atty.1-5-09.pdf x


5-6-09 Jackson County BOC publicly rejects lawsuit settlement in Ex-Warden case

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The Athens Banner-Herald

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May 6, 2009

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Jackson rejects offer in ex-warden's lawsuit

Underwood fired in 2007

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By Merritt Melancon 

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JEFFERSON - Jackson County commissioners Monday declined to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by former Jackson County Correctional Institute warden Vickie Underwood last December…………………………..


The Commerce News

http://www.commercenewstoday.com/archives/2098-Prediction-Jackson-to-prevail-in-reservoir-suit.html

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April 2, 2009                 OPINION By Mark Beardsley, Editor

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3-14-09 Newton Citizen Questions county attorney fees – more than $ 750,000 in 2008!

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The Covington News

http://newmedia.covnews.com:80/news/article/6163/

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March 8, 2009 By Gabriel Khouli

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Resident questions county attorney fees
Newton pays more than $ 750,000 in legal fees in 2008



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