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Development Authority calls illegal session of meeting

In the midst of a meeting to discuss contractors for the Thomson Company stabilization project, the McDuffie County Industrial Development Authority called an illegal executive session on March 1.

Authority Member Lemmy Brooks made a motion to go into the session that is closed to the public and the media to discuss potential problems with using the Thomson-based company, Two State Construction.

On the presentation made by Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers, the Two State representative for the project was listed as Cliff Poston. After the closed session it came out that the authority wanted the name changed to Jay Poston - the current company president.

After consulting with Sammy Fowler, the authority's attorney, Mr. Powers called local media outlets, including The Mirror, to explain the group's mistake.

"He said we probably would have been better served not to do that," Mr. Powers said. "...We really had some concerns about some names up on my slides. We thought that since they were going to be working for us, we could discuss it. ...We recognize the error of our ways."

According to state law, there are only three reasons a governmental body - such as the board of commissioners or a development authority - can hold a session closed to the public. Those reasons are to discuss real estate purchase, personnel decisions or potential litigation when legal counsel is present.

Hollie Manheimer, director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said that the reason given for the closed session was in fact invalid.

"When public officials opt to do business behind closed doors, the closure itself becomes the story," Ms. Manheimer said. "So not only is it the law to have open meetings, it's good public policy as well."

Web posted on Thursday, March 9, 2006

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