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Abuses of power must stop now

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POSTED: January 5, 2011 10:29 a.m.

Editor, In my last letter to the editor, I told you about the request I made for a DVD recording of the September Ludowici City Council meeting. My fourth or fifth request was answered with: “The recording is no longer on the computer.”  
I knew this would happen as the recording is proof of how our elected officials react to criticism. It also showed me in a bad light because when I was provoked, I did get angry with the Fowler family and said a few words that weren’t exactly nice.
It has now been brought to my attention that the meetings will no longer be recorded, as stated at the Dec. 14 council meeting.
Obviously, they thought this recording portrayed elected officials negatively or they wouldn’t have a reason to withhold it. I do have an audio copy, however, and I’ve had the background enhanced so that the elected officials can be heard. I was at a microphone so I come through loud and clear.
If that DVD recording was available, you’d be able to see the mayor’s reaction to my statement about how she receives her pay.
According to the city of Ludowici’s 2010 statement of revenues and expenditures, the mayor’s annual salary is $3,915. The same statement budgets travel expenses of $8,150 for the mayor. I have not seen any receipts to account for the $8,150 spent on travel, which includes mileage, meals and hotels.
This is not a secret to just about everyone connected to city hall. It has been used against her. Taxes are not paid on travel expense but receipts are supposed to equal the amount claimed. This has been happening for more than 14 years.                                                                                   
My point is this: If elected officials and hired staff have knowingly allowed something like this to go on, if it turns out to be illegal, are they all at fault?
A couple of weeks ago, I told the city clerk and the court recorder clerk that the council meeting time being changed from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. and the time to speak to the council being lowered from 10 minutes to three minutes was against the city ordinance. I was told by the attorney general’s office to tell them they were circumventing the law and preventing the public from attending meetings and voicing their opinions at a time that would be convenient. The reply I received was, “No one comes anyway.”
The point is that the meetings should always be open and held at a time when the working public could attend if they want to. They also need sufficient time to speak.
Everything the council acts on is supposed to be in an open meeting — this is the law. So after the fact, in the last meeting, they did make a motion to change these times and apparently must have changed the ordinance.
I still wonder if this is the legal way to change an ordinance. The nuisance ordinance is based on state law so it shouldn’t be changed by local government.                                                                              It’s a fact that in nine months, I have learned more about the ordinances and the rights of the public than these officials who have governed for up to 30 years. If they have known about all this, then they are clearly abusing their positions.

— Janis M. Goode
Ludowici

 

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