By DOUG NURSE http://www.ajc.com/
It was one of the largest open records request ever received by the city clerk of Milton. Karen Thurman recently asked for, and received, months of e-mails involving City Council members. She said she simply wants to know what is going on in the city.
What makes this request so extraordinary? Thurman is a member of the City Council.
Saying she felt out of the loop, Thurman filed an open records request with the city for e-mails among city senior staff and other council members going back to Jan. 1."I know that this will be a significant number of e-mails but feel it is necessary for me to get a handle on what is happening within the city," she wrote in a Feb. 26 e-mail to the city clerk.
On March 7, the city provided her with 6,000 pages of e-mails on a computer disc, which she read over the next two days.She said her review confirmed instances where she and Councilman Bill Lusk had been left out of the loop by other council members. For example, she said she was caught flatfooted by the City Council's decision to move the meeting date from Thursdays to Mondays, which is a bad time for her. She said e-mails indicate that other council members were aware of the proposal.
Thurman said none of the issues where she was omitted was major, but she finds it disturbing, nonetheless."It's political," she said.Last year, Thurman and Lusk were often part of a bloc of four votes, but two of their allies were defeated in the fall election. Since the city was founded Dec. 1, 2006, it had been riven with political dissension, prompting the council last year to call an organizational psychologist to help them deal with conflict.
Amy Henderson, spokeswoman for the Georgia Municipal Association, said Thurman's open records request was an unusual move."It's rare for anybody to ask for city council e-mails, but it's even more uncommon when it's coming from a member of the City Council," Henderson said.
Thurman said the freedom of information act request was justified. She said that, sometimes, threads of discussions from City Manager Chris Lagerbloom and Mayor Joe Lockwood would be discussed online among council members — minus Thurman and Lusk. She said Lagerbloom and Lockwood probably weren't even aware it was going on."She gets the same e-mails that everyone else gets, at least from me," Lockwood said. "Everything that has to do with the decisions of the city, I send to everyone. Everyone is in the loop."
Lagerbloom said Thurman is being charged for the research but said doesn't know how much it will cost.Lusk said it's disconcerting to be excluded from discussions. Thurman shared some of the e-mails with him."If you're part of a team and it's time to go into a huddle and everyone gets asked except for two players, I don't know how you win, how to play when you've been marginalized," Lusk said. "It's frustrating."
Lusk said he might have voted differently on some things if had had the same information as everyone else, but he said he couldn't name any specifics off the top of his head."We're supposed to come together here since the city has been taken back," Lusk said, referring to campaign slogans last fall that said it was time to take back Milton.