Warner Robins city council members didn't violate the law when they had a discussion at a car dealership about whether to hire a city manager, an assistant attorney general wrote.
But Jennifer Colangelo, the state lawyer, said council members need to be more careful to avoid situations where they might discuss city business in private settings.
The meeting happened in 2016 at Lowe Toyota.
Mayor Randy Toms raised the issue last month, saying he was concerned that the meeting might have been illegal. He asked the attorney general's office to review the case.
Chuck Shaheen, a council member and former mayor now running again for mayor, hosted the meeting with a state municipal gas agency.
But the discussion turned to whether Warner Robins should hire a city manager. Colangelo called that "a contentious topic" in the city.
Council members Tim Thomas, Carolyn Robbins, and Clifford Holmes say Shaheen invited them to meet representatives of the agency.
Those four would make up a majority of the seven-member council.
But the four apparently were never in the room at the same time. At one point, Holmes arrived and Shaheen left the meeting. Then Holmes left and Shaheen returned.
The state's open meeting law says if a majority of a public board meets to discuss public business, it's a formal meeting. The meeting must be posted in advance and open to the public.
Colangelo's Sept. 15 letter offers a mixed bag of advice for council members.
She wrote that "I am unable to conclude" that council members conspired to evade the law.
"However, that conclusion does not mean that I condone the actions of the city council," she wrote.
She said "Shaheen and possibly the other council members should have been aware that a quorum of council members would attend."
The city manager discussion, "held outside of a public meeting, frustrated the purposes of the Open Meeting Act.”
"It is therefore my sincere hope that the city council will in the future carry out not only the letter of the law, but adhere to the spirit of the law as well," Colangelo wrote.
After the council discussion, business owner Wayne Lowe told 13WMAZ that he offered his meeting space to the city officials as a courtesy, and he was not involved in hosting an illegal or secret meeting.
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