If Nancy Jester, Kathy Gannon or Jeff Rader are your commissioners, you are not entitled to representation in DeKalb County government any more.
Commissioner Nancy Jester revealed today that other commissioners signed a letter to open negotiations with Arthur Blank in April for a new soccer training facility, and that she wasn’t informed of it until about a week before the vote. I suspect commissioners Rader and Gannon will say the same.
One week ago, interim CEO Lee May said this on Twitter:
"There were no back door deals. I personally spoke with each individual Commissioner the day that I received information concerning this deal "Confronted with Jester’s revelation on WABE’s “A Closer Look” this afternoon, May said that none of these commissioners were informed because the land on Memorial Drive isn’t in their districts. Never mind, it seems, that Sharon Barnes-Sutton was apparently worthy of being informed, since the territory isn’t in her district, either. Nor that the $12 million public “investment” in a private company’s sports facility comes from taxpayers across the county.
I have questions. Many, many questions.
The first, of course, is whether this kind of communication violates open meetings and open records law. Three other commissioners plus the CEO constitutes a quorum; I suggest that triggers the law.
I recognize an exemption to open meetings law with regard to the disposition of real property … although it’s worth noting that the use of the land as a usufruct in the stadium deal may provide challenge that term. I do not recognize an exemption to open meetings law with respect to informing other members of a legislative body about official actions under consideration.
When did Mereda Davis Johnson know about this? Given how gung-ho she’s been about the deal, one might infer that she’d had enough time to digest details. Was she informed about the negotiations before she was elected? Before she announced her candidacy? Were other candidates?
With four months to consider the deal, why then was there such a rush to vote, other than the desire to limit public discussion? How can Lee May tell the public with a straight face that there should have been a public hearing when there was plainly ample time for one?
Why, if discussion began in April, was the site development plan and economic analysis presented to the public as weak as it was, given how much public money was put on the table? What staff resources were made available to the commission to evaluate the propriety of the deal in terms of economic payoff and feasibility? Were actual analyses done and then buried? Did people ask to do cost-benefit analyses and were rejected?
What kind of time pressure was placed on the commission by Blank? What did he say to justify a quick, no-public-input vote? When did he say it, and to whom? Why would that threat be considered credible?
And where’s the letter? I have an Open Records Act request out for it now.