February 28, 2014 10:09:22 AM
For the third time in a month, Columbus mayor Robert Smith and city council members have met in non-quorum meetings to discuss matters involving taxpayers funds.
By law, city officials can deny access to meetings to citizens or media if fewer than half of the council is in attendance. By breaking up the meetings into two meetings that included no more than three councilmen, the city can circumvent Open Meetings laws.
On Thursday, the council used this method to discuss new plans for renovations of the Trotter Convention Center, which is owned by the city and county.
City officials issued a press release announcing how the project will be managed after the non-quorum meeting.
It was issued after separate discussions took place between Smith, city councilmen, architect Major Andrews IV, J5/Broaddus senior project manager Robyn Eastman, Trotter director Frank Goodman and city chief operations officer David Armstrong. Those meetings took place behind closed doors and did not consist of a quorum. Councilmen Gene Taylor and Kabir Karriem were present for the first Thursday morning meeting while Joseph Mickens, Marty Turner and Bill Gavin were at the second. Both meetings took place in Smith's conference room at City Hall.
A request by the Dispatch to attend the meeting was denied.
Four councilmen confirmed to The Dispatch that there were no local media or members of the general public in the room when the discussions were held.
Thursday's meetings are the latest in a series of similar ones that have taken place in the last month. Non-quorum meetings were held in January between city officials and Golden Triangle Development LINK staff, during which the LINK walked away from the city as its retail development representative. Similar non-quorum meetings were held earlier this week, again with LINK staff. During those meetings, the two parties renewed their retail partnership.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
1. Ex-employee threatens shooting at Zaxby's COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. In his DNA: Shepherd plays key role in cold case arrest COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Volunteers host local arts bazaar in Starkville Sunday STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
4. Oktibbeha County's chancery candidates preparing for nonpartisan race STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
5. Gavin: Poor schools stunt city's growth COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY