ALBANY, Ga. — Wednesday night at a special called meeting of the Dougherty County School Board, the board went immediately into executive session to discuss “personnel matters” relating to the fallout from the governor’s CRCT cheating report.
The board remained in the closed session for nearly two and a half hours.
What made the session unusual is that in addition to the board, Superintendent Joshua Murfree and DCSS attorney Tommy Coleman, there were at least five additional people in the room: Finance Director Robert Lloyd, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dianne Daniels, Federal Programs Director Betty Graper, Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Goseer and Public Information Director R.D. Harter.
Normally the board, Murfree and Coleman are the only people allowed into executive sessions, which are closed to the public and media when discussing personnel and legal matters.
The sheer number of people in the closed session gave rise to a possible Sunshine Law violation.
“The Sunshine Law contains no language of who can be in an executive session,” Coleman said. “All those people are members of the superintendent’s cabinet.”
The unusual closed session prompted an inquiry to Georgia Press Association attorney David Hudson, who is an expert on the state’s Sunshine Law.
In an email to Hudson, The Herald described the situation, named the people in the session and asked for an opinion on whether a violation had occurred.
“To close a meeting, there has to be a vote to do so,” Hudson responded. “Assuming that happened, all that is allowed for a closed session on personnel is for the board members to ‘discuss and deliberate’ on the personnel matters.
“Allowing others in to give information and to participate is beyond what is permitted in a closed session for personnel.”