Ringgold Vice-Mayor Terry Crawford expressed his opinion last week that he believes Mayor Nick Millwood recently violated Georgia's Open Records Act by calling him about an issue before discussing it in a public meeting.
The accusation came during the City Council meeting Monday night, July 24. After all the agenda items had been addressed, Millwood asked if the council had any comments for the public, at which time Crawford accused Millwood of being unethical.
"In relation to our Sunshine Laws and Open Records...the mayor called me the other day and he was asking me questions about what I thought about this and if I could support that, and he was not going to call the others," Crawford said. "I do not think that polling this council one at a time individually over something that's not even been discussed is appropriate. That's not the way we need to handle things here."
Crawford claimed that the practice violated the way officials are supposed to conduct business.
"You were polling everybody to see what their opinion was," Crawford said.
"Sure," Millwood replied.
"I don't feel that polling is right, or ethical, and I'm not even sure that it's legal," Crawford went on. "I'd like to get a decision on if it is or not.
"Dan, please do that," Millwood said.
The issue in question was that of a liquor store potentially coming into the city. Millwood says he wasn't asking for a legitimate vote, but rather asking about the matter to see if it's something the city should look at further.
"I don't want anyone to feel like I was hiding anything or collecting council votes prior to the meeting as alleged," Millwood said. "I had called members of the council to get input on what they thought about a potential liquor store in the city like I asked openly on Facebook. I wanted to know if the council wanted to include it on our next agenda as a discussion item since we don't actually vote as a council to put the referendum on a ballot (a petition is required). I explained to Terry when I called him that this would be a public referendum as opposed to a council decision and I wasn't asking for a vote, but the accusations came anyway."
A couple of days after the incident, Millwood, who generally keeps the public informed about city issues on social media, made a statement that the city's attorney found no violation with him asking Crawford's opinion about the matter.
"Our attorney has concluded there was no violation of the sunshine laws," Millwood wrote in a Facebook post. "There was no quorum (voting majority present), and no discussion of official city business since the council does not vote on the issue I called them about. It would have been nice to clear that up before the meeting. Perhaps that effort will be made in the future. Time to get back to work. Thank you all for your encouragement and kind words."