The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections broke state law when it went into executive session in September to discuss opening an early voting site at Cedar Shoals High School, according to the ACC Attorney’s office.
Tension continued in the Board of Elections on Tuesday as they discussed the closed-door meeting. The attorney’s office concluded the board was in violation of the Georgia Open Meetings act. Assistant county attorney John Hawkins provided the results of the review to board members.
On Sept. 4, the BOE decided to go to executive session to discuss “personnel matters” since more poll workers would be needed for an additional early voting location. Under the Open Meetings Act, the board is permitted to go to executive session if it involved personnel matters. However, other topics were discussed, and the personnel exemption is meant to cover discussions about specific employees or candidates for positions, not hiring more personnel in general.
Photo Credit: Savannah Cole
It’s been four months since Bird scooters began hatching around downtown Athens and soaring through the University of Georgia campus in August as part of the company’s nationwide “University Pop-Up Tour.”
After a week, university officials began confiscating Birds on campus, and ACCPD and UGAPD later started ticketing riders who did not obey the law. Now, Bird scooters are causing another problem for University of Georgia officials since the company has refused to pick up the impounded scooters or pay fines.
As of Nov. 19, the University of Georgia had confiscated a total of 1,096 Bird scooters since August and stored them in the Carlton Street parking deck. At that time, Bird owed the university $504,360, according to UGA spokesperson Rebecca Beeler.
The Watkinsville City Council has hired Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Sharyn Dickerson as its first-ever city administrator, according to the Oconee Enterprise.
“I’m super, super excited about the vision this mayor and council have,” Dickerson told the Enterprise. “I’m so grateful for the meaningful, thoughtful, deliberative process that the mayor and council have gone through to bring someone in. It’s a dream job; it’s my dream job, and I look forward to serving the community.”
Photo Credit: Bailey Brautigan/Pexels
This Sunday, Athens restaurants can start pouring mimosas and bloody marys for early risers—and by early, I mean 10-ish.
At a called voting meeting prior to their agenda-setting meeting Tuesday night, the Athens-Clarke County Commission unanimously approved an ordinance pushing up the time when restaurants can start serving alcohol on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 11 a.m.
Photo Credit: Blake Aued
In any other year it would have been a mere formality. But an Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections meeting on Monday to certify the county's vote ended with a vote to recount eight precincts on an extremely tight deadline before sending the results on to the state.
Newly appointed board member Jesse Evans submitted petitions to conduct a "recanvassing" in eight out of 24 precincts: Howard B. Stroud, Clarke Central, Lay Park, the multimodal center, Whitehead Road (which includes both 5A and 5B), Chase Street and Cedar Shoals.
Under state law, three voters in a precinct can submit a notarized request to trigger a "recanvassing"—essentially a recount, followed by testing of voting machines—if they believe there is a discrepancy. Commissioners Melissa Link and Mariah Parker and Commissioner-elect Tim Denson worked with voters in their districts to submit the petitions, according to Link.
That triggered a three-hour discussion among board members and attorneys—as well as, at times, some of the 20 or so activists who attended the meeting and interjected or were given permission to speak—about whether such a recanvassing could even be accomplished.
The law requires a quorum of the Board of Elections and the poll manager for each precinct to be present, as well as giving notice to all of the candidates on the ballot and political parties so they can attend or send a representative. And the recanvassing has to be accomplished by mid-afternoon today, or ACC will be in violation of another state law requiring counties to certify their vote totals by 5 p.m.
"This is all news to me," ACC Attorney Bill Berryman said when he learned about the petitions. He asked for and received an hour-long recess to research this issue.
Three local political groups want answers on why Scott Freeman is no longer chief of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.
The Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition, the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement and Athens for Everyone—representing the Latinx community, African Americans and progressives, respectively—issued a statement over the weekend demanding "clarity" on Freeman's departure.
Freeman made a concerted effort to reach out to minority communities and refused to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement during his three-plus years as chief. He resigned under pressure last Thursday, with his boss, ACC Manager Blaine Williams, citing problems with attrition.
According to the groups' statement:
Scott Freeman is no longer chief of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, but the circumstances surrounding his departure are unclear.
As an Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement town hall meeting about community relations with police was wrapping up, AADM co-founder Knowa Johnson announced that Freeman had been fired.
The Athens Banner-Herald broke the story at about 7:30 p.m., quoting Mayor Nancy Denson as saying that ACC Manager Blaine Williams had fired Freeman.
“I wasn’t surprised that he was let go because I know there were several issues,” Denson told the ABH. “Evidently he wasn’t a good fit for Athens.”
Neither Williams nor Freeman immediately returned calls seeking comment. But about 20 minutes later, the ACC government issued a news release saying Freeman had resigned effective today. The announcement said he is leaving to "pursue other opportunies."
Photo Credit: Savannah Cole
The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement will host a town hall meeting on community policing and race relations at the Athens-Clarke County library from 5:30–7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Co-founder Mokah-Jasmine Johnson said that residents and community leaders are concerned that ACC police aren't doing enough to build trust and ensure safety in the wake of two recent incidents—an officer who hit a fleeing suspect with his car in June, and another officer who tackled a 10-year-old boy in July.
Athens-Clarke County commissioners approved preliminary plans Tuesday night for bike lanes in the Boulevard neighborhood—but not on Boulevard itself.
The concept plan approved Tuesday includes narrowing lanes on a Chase Street bridge to slow traffic coming into town off the Loop and multi-use paths along Barber Street and Oneta Street.
However, plans to eventually stripe bike lanes along Boulevard were scrapped—for now—after residents of the street objected that Boulevard is already safe for cyclists, and the markings would ruin its historic character.
Athens-Clarke County commissioners are expected to vote tonight on plans for removing one car lane from four-lane Barnett Shoals Road south of College Station Road to make room for a two-way protected bike lane when the road is repaved.
The new configuration would be tested for 30 days before being made permanent. But two Eastside commissioners, Andy Herod and Sharyn Dickerson, don't even want to test it. They have proposed replacing a sidewalk with a multi-use path instead. BikeAthens recently posted an article explaining why that's a bad idea.
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