With county elections approaching, signs are being placed throughout the county for qualified candidates running in the race.
County Executive Melissa Greene told the Legislative Committee an issue with candidate signage had been brought to her attention after a sign was placed on county property.
Greene said the committee needed to decide if it is acceptable for the county to pay for the cost of working around candidate signs when county properties are being mowed and maintained.
Another consideration mentioned was the risk of a candidate’s sign getting destroyed and the county being held accountable for it.
The committee voted to not allow signs on county property but will allow them at voting precincts up to two weeks before early
After a call for verification, Giles County Administrator of Elections Zena Dickey said signs cannot be placed within 100 feet of the entrance of the poll precinct’s door.
The Sunshine Law, also known as the Open Meetings Act, was among the committee’s discussion during the June 1 meeting.
“Basically, all meetings of any governing body are declared to be public meetings and must be open to the public at all times,” Giles County Attorney Lucy Henson said. “Now there are some exceptions to that; if there are pending litigations, your attorney can meet with you, and that’s not subject to the Open Meetings Act.”
She then went on to list requirements of this law: adequate public notice must be given for special and regular meetings, the minutes must be recorded and all votes must be public votes.
“And meetings, what is a meeting?” Henson posed. “So, a meeting is defined as any public body consisting of two or more members with the authority to make decisions for or recommendations to a public body on policy or administration.”
She said this would also relate to chance encounters.
“That could be considered a violation of the Sunshine Law if you have discussion about things that are going on and you pretty much come to some type of decision to present to the full commission,” Henson said. “Then, that could be a violation of the Sunshine Law.
“If that were the case and it is a violation of the Sunshine Law, any decision that is made is void.”
She said any citizen who felt a violation had been made can bring an action to any court of equity to enforce the Open Meetings Act.
“We just need to be mindful of it,” Henson said, adding that if two or more were gathered, it should be said it cannot be discussed at this forum if something were to be brought up.
Committee members discussed the issue at length, and Henson encouraged the commissioners to read the statute. Questions to the Open Meetings Act could be submitted online on the state’s website.
“It’s not an easy fix to remedy if there’s been a void action,” Henson said, adding that it was best “when in doubt, to err on the side of caution.”
In other business, the committee:
• Heard a request had been received for a resolution stating the county does not support Title IX.
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination (including pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity) in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
Henson said the request stated Title XIX which was incorrect.
Henson said if a request is made to the committee it should be clear, and since this request pertains to schools, it should also be presented to the school board.
Giles County District 3 Commissioner Rodney Journey said the Title IX issue is a school board matter.
“I agree we’d just be sending a message, but I don’t want to be sending the wrong message,” Giles County District 2 Commissioner Mike Cesarini said, adding that the committee needs to meet with Giles County Director of Schools Vickie Beard and the president of UT Southern to help determine how to proceed.
The committee voted not to act on the request until more information is received.
• Discussed that property tax relief had been recommended to the Budget Committee for its consideration but had not been acted upon.
• Heard minutes and agendas for county meetings are now available in PDF form on the county’s website at no cost to the county.