Ringgold City Councilman Terry Crawford is accusing the mayor of breaking Georgia's sunshine law this week.
At the end of the city's council meeting this week, Crawford said Mayor Nick Millwood was out of line when he called elected officials to ask how they felt about bringing liquor stores to the city. Right now, you can't sell packaged liquor in Ringgold, City Attorney James Bisson said.
Millwood said he was trying to gauge interest from the council to decide whether to put an item on the agenda of a future meeting. Crawford did not care for Millwood's call.
"I do not think polling this council one at a time individually over something that's not even been discussed is appropriate," Crawford said. "(City Manager Dan Wright), if you need to, I'd like you to check with our lawyer, see if I'm right. But I don't think that is something we need to be doing."
"You felt like I was asking about a vote?" Millwood said.
"No, you did not ask," Crawford said. "Well, yes you did ask about a vote. You were polling everybody to see what their opinion was."
"I don't feel like polling is right," Crawford said. "I don't think it's ethical. And I'm not even sure it's legal. But I'd like to get a decision on if it is or not."
"Dan, please do that," Millwood said. "Please do that."
On Thursday, Bisson said he has not yet looked into whether Millwood violated the open meetings act. But Amy Henderson, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Municipal Association, said the mayor didn't do anything untoward: Elected officials are allowed to call each other to decide whether a topic is worth discussing at a meeting.
Millwood said they don't have a quorum unless four council members are together. Further, the mayor does not count as a council member.
Crawford declined to comment Thursday, telling a reporter to obtain a press release on the issue from city hall. Wright later said he did not know anything about a press release.
"You can quote [Millwood] all you want to," Crawford said. "I'd rather you call city hall (for my comment)."
In Ringgold, you can sell liquor by the drink at a bar. You can also sell beer and wine in stores. But you can't sell liquor in stores. To change that, Bisson said, a resident has to gather signatures on a petition and put a referendum on a ballot. Millwood said he knows somebody who is going to start a referendum, and he wants the council members to discuss the issue at a meeting so voters know where they stand.
Councilwoman Sara Clark is on the fence about the issue but is open to hearing the pros and cons. Like Crawford, she said Millwood called her. She believes he just wanted to gauge her interest.
Clark said Tuesday's dispute shows a riff between Millwood and Crawford, which neither man seems able to permanently mend. She said both elected officials want what's best for the city and try to get along. But their backgrounds are different, and Clark described some of their interactions as "oil and water."
"I've watched them shake hands, agree to disagree," she said. "They are good-intentioned. Somehow, they can set each other off. I don't know. I just don't have an answer."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.