The hopeless state of local government leadership in Dougherty County can be symbolized by the rules that are in place to suppress public participation in meetings – and how quickly those rules are broken.
By policy, the Albany City Commission prohibits citizens from speaking at PUBLIC meetings unless they have signed up by noon Wednesday before the commission’s Tuesday meetings – nearly a week in advance and two days before the agendas are produced.
Thus, if something on the agenda catches one’s fancy, that just too bad: City policy specifically says so. And if two people have signed up before you to speak at a meeting, it’s also too bad. That is, unless you are in good favor with the mayor, who often breaks the city policy with the complicity of the City Commission.
That’s what you get when you have lawbreakers in charge.
Speaking of scofflaws, the Dougherty County School Board policy suppressing speaking at public meetings isn’t nearly as, well, suppressing. At least, they don’t have the concept of public participation backwards, as the Albany City Commission does.
Citizens can sign to speak at meetings, but they can only speak to items that are on the agenda.
But then again, whether the rules are followed depends on who you know, as demonstrated by the school board recently.
After following its speaker suppression rules and denying The Albany Journal’s publisher’s request to speak about the superintendent hiring process at a meeting because the topic wasn’t on the agenda, the board voted 5-2 last week to violate its rules and allow two citizens to speak on the same topic.
Why the change of heart? The speakers, as it turns out, support the board’s decision to hire Dr. Joshua Murfree as the system’s next superintendent. Indeed, one of the speakers requested during his presentation that the board ensure that Murfree receive a salary equal to higher of that of departing superintendent Sally Whatley.
How long this nonsense continues depends on the electorate — and a real opportunity to attempt to put an end to it exists at the polls in July and again in November.