Last week, the Gwinnett Daily Post reported that the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners mis-recorded a vote on one of the development projects along Highway 20. In the May 26th meeting, the vote on the property at Hope Hollow Road and Champions Way was recorded as a ‘No’ by a vote of 2-3.
But as the GDP reported, during the Board’s June 2nd meeting, Commissioner Jace Brooks stated that his vote was not recorded correctly. Brooks made his statement as the Board was asking for corrections to the minutes from the May 26th meeting. Based on Brooks’ statement, the minutes were updated accordingly, and the vote was amended to 3-2 in favor of the development.
When I posted this story on Facebook, a lot of people immediately responded with… oh, let’s call it reservation. In fact, enough people expressed their doubts about the change that I sent an email to District Three Commissioner Tommy Hunter, asking for clarification. Commissioner Hunter referred me to the County’s legal advisor Bill Linkous, who in turn referred me to Heather Sawyer, the Public Relations Manager for Gwinnett County.
I spoke with Ms. Sawyer this morning by phone.
“The purpose of approving the minutes from the previous meeting is to correct any errors,” she said. “That’s exactly what happened in this case. Commissioner Brooks said his vote was recorded incorrectly, and the change was made to reflect his vote.”
I asked if the Commissioners would go back and look at the tape of the meeting, just for verification purposes. Sawyer said that isn’t the protocol.
“To my knowledge, something like this has ever happened before,” Sawyer said. “So they take the Commissioner’s word.”
Here’s what I take away from this:
1. The County is happy to talk to people about how they handle business. Sometimes we think the government exists just to keep citizens in the dark. I found that not to be the case in this instance. As I was ending the phone call, Sawyer said, “Thank you for calling me. You’d be surprised at few people actually reach out.”
2. The review of minutes is intended to catch mistakes like this. The length of open meetings like the ones the Commissioners hold doesn’t allow for each point to be reviewed in minutia. If they stopped to quibble over every detail, they’d never get out of meetings. They review the minutes at the next meeting to guarantee they get things right, because each vote is of consequence to someone.
3. There is an opportunity for our community to still have influence. This has nothing to do with the Commissioners, but is just my take: if the community will lobby the developers as passionately as they did the Commissioners, there is no telling how we might make a positive impact throughout this process. Our voices did not disappear once the Commission voted; they were merely redirected. Sound off in the comments here, or post to the Grayson Local Facebook page – but whatever you do, don’t just go silent. Keep your ideas and desires in the public sphere and they might just make the impression you desire.
I debated on whether or not to post this, as there’s no real “story” to be told. But as my wife reminded me, there are plenty of people who want to know how our government works, and even more want to be informed that it works according to a system of rules. We may not always get the results we want, but we can at least know that accountability is available if we’ll step up and take it.
Let me know what you think.