Report: Commissioners Evaded 'Open Meeting' Laws to Accelerate Approval of Braves Stadium
Atlanta Magazine reported on Saturday that Cobb County commissioners accelerated the approval of more than $300 million of county financing for the new $672 million Atlanta Braves Stadium by evading, and possibly violating, the state of Georgia's "open meeting" laws.
According to the article, "[a]t least twice in November, Braves boosters briefed Cobb commissioners privately on plans to help build the ball club a $672 million stadium, officials who were in the meetings say. Lawyers, department heads, Braves bigwigs, and chamber-of-commerce types attended at various times—but the taxpayers who will foot much of the bill were kept in the dark."
The first "top-secret briefing" of Cobb County commissioners took place on November 8. On November 11, the Braves and Cobb County officials made the public announcement of the deal. On November 13, the "[c]ommissioners gathered again privately."
As Breitbart News reported in December, the process by which the Cobb County Commission approved the Atlanta Braves Stadium deal in a 4 to 1 vote on November 26, 2013 "moved at a breathtaking pace."
According to Atlanta Magazine, "[a]t both the November 8 and November 13 meetings, the five commissioners used a 'revolving door' format so only two of them would be in the room at once. No quorum existed that way, officials contend, so open-meetings requirements did not apply."
Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, told Atlanta Magazine that "[such a] rolling quorum . . . circumvents the spirit and letter of the law."
"If the [Georgia] Open Meetings Act exists for any purpose, "she said, "[it's] this situation. To the extent there is even an appearance that one commissioner leaves to be replaced by another commissioner to avoid a quorum, that raises questions about issues with the Open Meetings Act."
On Monday, Neil DeMause, co-author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit, noted that "[t]he Atlanta Magazine piece also confirms that the Braves' proposed development to surround the new stadium, which is ostensibly the whole reason why this project makes any sense at all for Cobb County, may never be built, as the memorandum of understanding 'contains no deadline for the team to complete an adjacent $400 million retail/entertainment district.' "
The revelations in the Atlanta Magazine article are certain to catch the attention of attorneys for local Tea Party activists, who have promised to file a lawsuit to stop the use of taxpayer funds to build the new $672 million Atlanta Braves stadium.