For months we have been writing about the problems in city hall, specifically with respect to following Georgia’s open records and open meetings laws. We have noted that the council has disregarded the law when holding meetings in the past. They have held retreats where discussions and goal settings have taken place; clearly against the open records law. We have had several people report that they have attended meetings on occasion and found the city hall doors locked during meetings. Last Saturday we see that the MDJ attended a meeting and found the doors locked as well.
Although the Mayor states that this is a mistake, just how many of these “mistakes” is the city allowed before they implement some changes to show that they are going to comply with the law? We could find no mention of this “special called” meeting on the city website. At this time, we also find no minutes from the meeting, however, to be fair, it is early and it’s after a holiday weekend. They still have plenty of time to post.
This site, dear Watchers, is all about asking for transparency and accountability. We strive to encourage our government officials to show us how they are spending our money. We have asked for records to be posted on the city website such as a listing of who is serving on each board or commission, because we believe that will make it easier for citizens to reach out and participate. Rather than assist us, we have been asked to pay for these as “records”. We have suggested things using the city’s own Submit a Concern online tool, but we receive no response at all. As such, we are not sure if the tool works. We asked for a full listing of those online submissions to be posted online but the cost was over $1000 for us to see the results of that.
We have asked for more detail on what our council members are spending, specifically on themselves. We would like for them to disclose spending for their clothing, trips and meals when they are paying for it with taxpayers money. That’s our money, Watchers. We have a right to know if they are buying new city shirts at $30 a pop. We have a right to know if they are traveling to DC and paying for their spouse. Just how much golf is the council and city manager playing? Just what pet projects is the council paying for in the middle of the year that weren’t budgeted and are not essential to government? What are these costing the taxpayers? We have a right to know.
We certainly want to promote only the positive but it is our job to keep focusing on what is out there and to report it. There are good things in Kennesaw. Kennesaw city has always prided itself on having an outstanding staff, but they are leaving. Many are being terminated, or they are leaving due to the work environment. Although the Mayor says there have been no lay offs, there have been serious cut backs. The work force has been reduced significantly, asking the employees who are left to do more with less. These employees have not had an increase in pay for years. And the good work they are doing is being overshadowed by the bad decisions made by the council. Rather than come out front and make cuts openly, the mayor and council have done cuts secretly and quietly. Cuts to staff are still reductions and the staff knows it and feels it. They talk and it affects morale because they wonder if they will be next. Over time, the effectiveness of the staff will be lost as more and more leave.
Our goal here at the Watch is to come to a place where records will be easily found on the city website and we will not have to wonder where our money is spent.
Get involved, stay involved! We CAN make a difference!