published Friday, September 28th, 2012

Hamilton County Attorney Rheubin Taylor says one-on-one meetings fine


by Cliff Hightower
County attorney Rheubin Taylor initiates voting during a Hamilton County Commission meeting in this file photo.
County attorney Rheubin Taylor initiates voting during a Hamilton County Commission meeting in this file photo.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

EMISSIONS TESTING

County Commissioner Jim Fields said Thursday the county will not pursue any action to opt out of emissions testing program. An opinion from County Attorney Rheubin Taylor states if the county breaks the emissions testing program contract, the state would conduct emissions tests. Emissions testing started in 2005 as a way to help curtail air pollution in the Chattanooga area.

Hamilton County Attorney Rheubin Taylor says one-on-one meetings between county commissioners and Board of Education members will not violate the state's open meetings act, known as the Sunshine Law.

Commissioner Fred Skillern asked for Taylor's opinion during an agenda session.

"Is it in violation of Sunshine Law for a county commissioner to meet with a school board member?" Skillern asked.

"No, sir," Taylor immediately responded.

Taylor also said the county mayor or any staff member could meet with school board members for one-on-one conversations.

County Commission Chairman Larry Henry brought up the idea of commissioners meeting individually with school board members last week as a way to improve communication. School board Chairman Mike Evatt embraced the idea and said commissioners and school board members would meet on a rotating basis.

Frank Gibson, public policy director for the Tennessee Press Association, also said last week the meetings would not violate the Sunshine Law.

The law states elected officials can not have any deliberations that leads to agreements in voting.

Commissioners maintain they do not plan on having any such deliberations and will report back to each other's government bodies about the meetings.

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