Editor, I recently sat in the lobby of Ludowici City Hall and read through the Ludowici Ordinance Book. I had copied the ordinance on elections and the procedures about how government should operate:
• Sec. 3-101: code of ethics
Although there are several interesting items in this section, one in particular stood out and this is what it says: “Appointing or voting for the appointment of any person related to him by blood or marriage to fill an office, position, employment, or duty, when the salary, wages, pay, or compensation is to be paid out of public funds.
“Upon the sworn complaint of any person alleging facts which if true would constitute a violation of this section, the council shall conduct a public hearing at which the accused shall be given an opportunity to be heard, either personally or through council. At the conclusion of said hearing, the council shall, in written findings of fact and conclusions based thereon, make a determination concerning the propriety of the conduct of the official or employee in question.”
This is saying that if a citizen has a complaint, our recourse is to submit that complaint to the council and they will have a public hearing. Since most of the council has ignored this item in the ordinance — having done exactly what it says not to do — how can they be policed? They are supposed to be the ones who are protecting the law.
This is how the same families have governed for decades. They essentially are the law and they should police themselves, but if they have all hired or voted for family themselves, how can this be done?
I turned in an ethics complaint but, of course, if they are the law in town, they are not going to correct their behavior. Seriously, the city is supposed to abide by the laws of the state, the charter and the ordinance.
• Sec. 3-203: rules for the conduct of business
At the public meetings, the speaker’s time has been reduced to three minutes. It’s almost impossible for anyone to address the council in such a short time. The ordinance says 10 minutes unless additional time is granted by council. This is another case of council members changing the rules to suit themselves.
Any change to the ordinance must go through channels. It’s a legal document, not just words that can be changed on a whim because members of government want to prevent someone from speaking and objecting to government actions. Whenever anything is changed — whether by the mayor or the city council — it has to be done in a public forum and voted on. Meeting minutes also must reflect the action. These minutes are also supposed to be available to the public. This has not been done at all!
• Sec. 3-201: meetings duty to attend
It shall be the duty of each member of the city council to attend each meeting of the city council, unless he is prevented by some unavoidable circumstances.
Since May, one member has missed three meetings at a cost to the public of $600. Sometimes I suppose things come up. But perhaps they should make a new ruling that if you don’t show up, you forfeit the pay.
— Janis M. Goode