May 24, 2011 12:23:00 PM
They''re not there yet. But they took a step in the right direction.
The Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau is looking into hiring an official board attorney -- eschewing the work, whether paid or unpaid, by attorneys that happen to be seated on its board. The CVB got itself into a little hot water last week over an effort to pay attorney David Sanders for legal work he did while a board member -- an ethical no-no.
Sanders, and fellow board member and attorney DeWitt Hicks, have offered legal advice to the board in the past, and the board has contracted out for specific legal work. But what the board has lacked is an attorney versed in state open meetings law -- one unconnected to the board who can offer impartial legal advice.
The board should have hired an attorney long ago. Over the past decade, the CVB has drifted away from the very ordinance that governed it -- a fact that went unnoticed until Lowndes Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders dusted off the old charter a year ago. A board attorney would have kept the CVB on track over the years.
Since then, the Legislature has approved, and the governor has signed, a new ordinance governing the CVB. Old members have rotated out; new members have joined.
Now is beyond the time for the new board to get a primer from a competent attorney on how to run a public meeting, and when to enter executive session.
As we said, this should have happened weeks ago. But, better late than never. This isn''t a matter to languish in committee -- the CVB needs to find an attorney before it gets itself into even more ethical -- and possibly legal -- trouble.
kat commented at 5/24/2011 1:46:00 PM:
Why do they NOT have one? Even my Homeowners Association has an attorney. This day and time its just good business.
columbus concerned commented at 5/24/2011 2:19:00 PM:
I have been critical of the Dispatch in the past, but the paper is absolutely right about the CVB.
Not having a board attorney essentially forced the CVB to rely on the legal advice of Dewitt Hicks and David Sanders. Mr. Sanders, regrettably, used that power to enrich himself. His and the firm's only defense to this has been, well, he served on the board for free for a long time. What!??! So has everyone else. That doesn't excuse his obvious and common sense unethical action, which would not have been exposed except for Whirlie Byrd. It's clearly a diversion from the issue. Please explain how Mr. Sanders, a lawyer, thought it was legal to be paid to do legal work for a board you serve.
Mr. Hicks, another attorney, was on the board when this happened. So, he needs to explain if, and if so, why he voted to allow Mr. Sanders to get paid.
If neither one of these seasoned and longtime attorneys knew this was unethical, there's no better evidence of why the CVB needs a board attorney than that.