The following are two letters that were recently sent to both Mayor Joe Lockwood and Justice Norman Fletcher regarding sewer in Milton.
BEGIN LETTER 1:
June 11, 2010
VIA HAND DELIVERY
The Honorable Joe Lockwood
City of Milton
13000 Deerfield Parkway, Suite E
Milton, Georgia 30004
Re: Council Vote of May 3, 2010 on Justice Norman Fletcher's Proposed Sewer Map.
Dear Mayor Lockwood:
We the undersigned write to you as citizens of the City of Milton.
We write to express our grave concerns at the manner in which you and a majority of the City Council acted on May 3, 2010.
We are referring to the City Council's consideration of the agenda item published and posted as "Discussion and Vote on Justice Norman Fletcher's Proposed Sewer Map with Fulton County, Georgia, pursuant to the Service Delivery Strategy Act Court Ordered Mediation." (Agenda item No. 10-1129)(See City Of Milton, Georgia Regular Council Meeting Agenda dated Monday, May 3, 2010).
As you know, Justice Norman S. Fletcher's mediated sewer map proposal encompassed just four (4) of eight (8) land lots that had been the subject of disputre with Fulton County, Georgia. Juistic Fletcher's recommended solution involved significantly less acreage than those areas excluded from his proposal. However, Justice Fletcher's letter to Council and accompanying his proposed map was never published by the City Milton - a circumstance that we find curious and inexcusable, not to mention wholly inconsistent with basic principles of transparency and good government. The Justice's letter requested that the governing authorities of Fulton County and the City of Milton provide "an up or down vote with respect to the sewer map I have enclosed." He went on to request that the two governing authorities "vote to approve or reject the enclosed sewer map." (Letter of Norman S. Fletcher to Ken Jarrard, Esq. and Vincent D. Hyman, Esq. dated March 16, 2010). But the very nature of this limited request was withheld from the citizens of Milton-at large. As a consequence, they were unable to make an informed objection when the City Council acted to exceed the request on May 3, 2010.
Further more, Justice Fletcher sent his letter to Milton's City Attorney on March 16, 2010.
The Milton City Council voted on the matter on May 3, 2010. This means that Justice Fletcher's
letter was withheld from public view for almost six (6) full weeks and was not made part of the Council's disclosures when posting the matter for vote on May 3. Georgia's statutory provisions having to do with comprehensive planning and service delievery by counties and municipalities, in particular its dispute resolution procedures under O.C.G.A Section 36-70-25.1 and pertaining to municipal service delivery systems, do not mandate the confidentiality of mediation proceedings.
As a result, your approach represented a significant departure from basic principles of open government and transparency. Futhermore, there was no legal basis for you and other members of Council to depart from the policy position that Milton's elected representatives had established as recently as 2008, and then after completion of an exhaustive and detailed review.
At the very least, the Council should have decided this question only after first giving the citizens of Milton proper notice of the precise issues being laid on the table by Justice Fletcher. Failure to publish the Justice's letter made certain that that opportunity would never be had.
The substantive consequences of yor approach are significant. As a direct result of the Council'
s May 3, 2010 vote, a total of 41 parcels representing 130.8 acres have now been designated as eligible for sewer access. These numbers reflect a marked increase over the number of parcels and total acreage encompassed by Justice Fletcher's mediated recommendation.
For all those reasons, we believe that you and other members of Councl fell markedly short of your public responsibilities in the days leading up to and including May 3, 2010. In addition to your disregard of Milton's historic concern with limiting sewer, we are concerned that you have made the City vulnerable to potential legal challenges. Prospective claimants include Milton land owners and affect citizens and governments located downstream, particularly as they relate to improper diversions of water from the Etoway Basin. It also appears that policies promulgated by the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Board have been violated. Finally, we are concerned that some citizens will view the Council's action as having opened up sewer access for those properties adjoining the parcels addressed by the Council's action of May 3, 2010.
Accordingly we write to request formally that you and Council move to nullify your earlier vote, posting this entire matter for immediate reconsideration. We ask that you do so with a renewed regard for the wishes of the Milton community as well as basic principles of open goverment and transparency.
Your prompt action in futherance of these concerns will be appreciated.
cc: All Members of the Milton City Council
The Honorable Norman S. Fletcher
BEGIN LETTER 2:
June 11, 2010
VIA HAND DELIVERY
The Honorable Norman S. Fletcher
Brinson, Askew, Berry, Seigler, Richardson & Davis, LLP
615 West First Street
P.O. Box 5007
Rome, Georgia 80162-5007
Re: Action Taken By The City Council of Milton, Georgia on May 3, 2010/
Proposed Sewer Map/City of Milton
Dear Justice Fletcher:
We are citizens of the City of Milton, Georgia.
We write to express our unequivocal disagreement with the action taken by the Milton City Council on May 3, 2010 expressing its approval of eight (8) parcels of real property listed on your proposed mediation sewer map, which map accompanied your letter of March 16, 2010 to Messrs. Ken Jarrard and Vincent Hyman.
The basis of our objections and concerns are several. They are summarized briefly below:
(1) The action of the Milton City Council was taken without first having published your letter to the citizens of Milton;
(2) Your letter was also not made available to all members of the Milton City Council until shortly before the vote was taken, which means that it was kept under wraps for a period of approximately six (6) weeks;
(3) The Milton City Council's consideration of this issue was published only one week before the scheduled May 3, 2010 vote, while your letter remained withheld from widespread public disclosure;
(4) The Milton City Council's agenda item for this matter was published and posted as "Discussion and Vote on Justice Norman Fletcher's Proposed Sewer Map with Fulton County, Georgia, pursuant to the Service Delivery Strategy Act Court Ordered Mediation." ( Agenda Item No. 10-1129), yet your letter and its explanatory comments were withheld from public disclosure; and
(5) Despite the fact your letter simply requested an "up or down" vote on the mediated solution which it described, this fact was not made known to the citizens of Milton.
Milton's City Attorney, Ken Jarrard, explained his decision not to publish your letter as related to the fact mediation is customarily private in nature. Yet, this mediation deals with a lawsuit in which the contesting parties are governmental entities. As such, the parties reflect, or are supposed to reflect, the wishes of their citizenry. To suggestion, as did Mr. Jarrard, that your letter was "private" defies common sense, particularly when an issue of extreme sensitivity to the citizens of Milton - sewer access - is being considered. Our City Council arrived at its original position in calendar year 2008, and it did so following a detailed and exhaustive review process. When on May 3, 2010 our City Council proceeded to employ its consideration of your letter as an opportunity to go beyond the request contained within it, and did so without even disclosing the precise nature of your request, a serious but reversible breach of public trust occured.
It bears noting that when the Fulton County Commission took up this same issue on May 5, 2010, your letter was made public by that body before a formal vote was taken.
We have made our concerns known directly to the members of the Milton City Council including Mayor Lockwood. A copy of that correspondence is enclosed for your review. We are requesting that the mediation solution which you proposed entirely anew by the Milton City Council. Accordingly, we urge you to hold in abeyance the report from that body as it pertains to creation of the forthcoming Inter-Governmental Agreement on sewer until a proper consideration of this issue is had by the City of Milton.
Thank you for your every consideration in this matter.
cc: Mayor Joe Lockwood
City of Milton
All Members of the Milton City Council