During a Feb. 15 called meeting, the board voted to fill the position using a secret ballot.
Georgia Press Association attorney David Hudson and Hollie Manheimer of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation said the hidden vote is illegal under sunshine statutes.
An attorney who advises the board disagrees.
Phil Hartley, of Harben and Hartley in Gainesville, said the voting method is not stipulated by law.
“There is nothing under the Open Meetings Act itself that directs a board member in the manner to vote,” Hartley said.
He said the circumstances of this vote, which ended with the appointment of Tim Turner to a board seat vacated earlier this year by John Stone, made the vote entirely legal.
Nevertheless, Hartley said board members plan on revealing their votes for the public record during the next board meeting. The attorney said they are going to vote to amend the minutes reflecting how each member voted in the appointment.
Hartley said he sees no need for any further action.
“I don’t believe there is any requirement to redo their votes,” he said. “I see nothing in the Open Meetings Law requiring board action.”
Cedartown attorney W. Wright Gammon Jr. said a possible lawsuit challenging the board’s action is temporarily on hold to give the board an opportunity “to rescind the secret vote.”
Grady McCrickard, who took over as school board chairman in January, said Wednesday he tried to avoid problems with the vote beforehand by talking with Hartley about what procedures could be used in the vote.
“The reason for me contacting the attorney beforehand was I wanted to be upfront and above board,” McCrickard said.
Hartley confirmed he did talk to McCrickard prior to the vote, but said he couldn’t offer any details because of attorney-client privilege.
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