FULTON COUNTY — In a 3-3 vote, the Fulton County Commission failed to pass an ordinance amendment that would have restricted the addition of last-minute items to the meeting agenda.
The amendment, proposed by Commissioner Bob Ellis, would have required unanimous approval among board members before an item could be added to the agenda during a meeting.
If an add-on item failed to pass, it could be brought back at the next meeting, after the public had time to review it, and would only require a simple majority to pass.
Ellis argued the new rule would ensure that last-minute add-ons were used only for emergencies.
“The notion behind the unanimous approval would be that a group of commissioners would not get together and bring forth an item that was a surprise item and pass it at that point in time,” he said. “That’s certainly not the intent in which we want to run our meetings.”
The commissioners considered the amendment June 5. Commissioners Lee Morris and Liz Hausmann joined Ellis in support of the measure.
The commissioner’s agenda is made available to the public on the Friday prior to each Wednesday meeting, which gives citizens time to review what will be considered, contact their elected officials if they have concerns and speak during the public comment section at the beginning of the meeting.
However, commissioners and county staff sometimes add items to the agenda after Friday, sometimes in the middle of the meeting.
Ellis said over the past 10 meetings there had been 46 add-on items, an average of four to five items a meeting, including the controversial decision to reappoint Board of Assessors Chair Salma Ahmed.
Ellis noted the Association County Commissioners of Georgia’s guidelines state that the ability to amend agendas after public notice should not be used “as an excuse to add controversial topics at the last minute in hopes of avoiding scrutiny.”
While the amendment failed to find a majority, it also was not voted down, so it can appear before commissioners again.
“I’m hoping that once people really look at it, they reconsider,” Ellis said. “I don’t understand why anyone would be against it. There’s not really harm in it, and it will only serve to benefit public engagement and transparency.”