Board doesn’t have to vote to conduct city business

Dear Pat,

 

Please print this in the Letters to the Editor.

Have you ever heard Pat Brown refer to the newspaper where he works as Emmerich Newspapers, Inc., d/b/a The Magee Courier and Simpson County News? That’s a mouthful! Just like saying Head Start, administered by Five County Child Development Program, Inc. (hereinafter ”FCCDP”). is a mouthful! Pat Brown regularly refers to “The Courier”, but, according to Pat Brown logic, if City of Magee (hereinafter “Magee”) officials refer to “Head Start” rather than the entire mouthful, they are being deceptive and trying to hide something. There is nothing to hide. Head Start is a federal program for early childhood education, health, and nutrition that is administered in Simpson County by FCCDP. In Simpson County, Head Start is FCCDP.

In Pat Browns editorial on May 10 he questions why Magee was negotiating with a private business to operate the Head Start program at the old Magee elementary school. Maybe its because that private 501(c)(3) non-profit business is the entity that operates the Head Start program in Simpson County. Maybe its because if you want Head Start to re-locate their facility to Magee, you negotiate with FCCDP. Regardless of what Pat Brown may say, it has never been a secret that Magee was negotiating with FCCDP.

Pat Brown alleges in his editorial on May 24 that he had no idea that Magee was negotiating with FCCDP and not Head Start until he “obtained” a copy of the lease. Pat Brown makes it appear that he did great journalistic investigative work to “obtain” a copy of the lease. I gave him a copy of the proposed lease. If Magee officials were trying to be deceptive, untruthful, sneaky, and making “a back room” deal with FCCDP, why would I, as City Attorney, voluntarily give Pat Brown a copy of the proposed lease. A lease that says in the very first paragraph that FCCDP is the Lessee (person leasing the property).

While Pat Brown says that he never heard of FCCDP before he “obtained” the lease, I find it amusing that MageeNews.com contains at least 3 articles (since January that I could find in a brief search) related to the old elementary school that refer to “Five County Head Start” (one article said “Tri-County” Head Start, but I imagine the reporter mis-heard what was said) Pat Brown was at the same meetings as MageeNews.com that these articles referred to.

In his May 24 editorial Pat Brown admits that Jonathan Bines, director of FCCDP was at a special December school board meeting to discuss the elementary school along with Magee officials.  Pat Brown says he didn’t know who Jonathan Bines was and assumed he was from Atlanta. If Pat Brown didn’t know who Jonathan Bines was and where he was from, why didn’t he ask? Much easier to assume than to check and verify your “facts.” MageeNews.com was at that meeting and wrote an article identifying Jonathan Bines as the director of Five County Head Start.

Pat Brown also alleges he was told that me and Alderman Patrick Brown went to Atlanta to meet with Head Start officials. Neither of us have ever been to Atlanta to meet with Head Start officials, and Pat Brown has never asked us if we have. Again, don’t verify, just assume, and make up your facts.

For some reason Pat Brown states in that editorial that there is no mention in the lease of the $9 million in bank accounts that FCCDP may bring to Magee. That has never been a condition for Head Start to move to Magee, and has never been a part of the negotiations. I don’t know where that came from.  I’ve see, read, and prepared many leases over my 40 year legal career and don’t recall ever seeing a lease that asks how much money the Lessee has.

In the same editorial Pat Brown states that there is no record in the Magee minutes of this matter being discussed at a Magee Board Meeting. This is a half-truth at best. Many, many items, from sewers, to garbage, to streets, to grass cutting, to splash pad, to zoning, etc., etc., are discussed at the Board meetings but are not put in the minutes. The minutes show what was VOTED on by the Board, not what was discussed. Pat Brown has attended many Board meetings and reviewed many minutes for years, he knows this. Pat Brown is basically saying that the Board has not even discussed the elementary school project at a Board meeting. That is simply not true! MageeNews.com, just like Pat Brown, attends all of the Magee Board meetings. MageeNews.com has written articles summarizing the actions and discussions of Magee Board meetings which occurred on January 2 and 30, April 17, May 1 and 15, that specifically mention discussions about the elementary school project (I didn’t research further than January). Also, at the March 20 meeting, the Board approved payment of the fees incurred in obtaining a title opinion on the elementary school property. At the April 3 meeting the Board approved payment of the fees incurred in obtaining a survey of the elementary school property. At both of these meetings I specifically remember discussing the elementary school project, what the expenses were for, and why they were necessary.

Since January 1, 2018, Magee Board has met 12 times (10 regular, 2 special). The elementary school project has been discussed at a minimum of 7 of those meetings. In addition to the Magee Board meetings, Magee officials attended 2 open-to-the-public Simpson County School Board meetings discussing the elementary school project. None of the discussions were held in executive session. MageeNews.com video records all the Magee Board meetings, and (I think) they are available on their website.

I don’t know where those “back rooms” that Pat Brown refers to are located, but I really don’t think open-to-the-public Magee Board and Simpson County School Board meetings qualify as “back rooms”. At least 9 public meetings (in less than 6 months) discussing the elementary school project. Is Pat Brown really saying this is being hidden from the public?

Sincerely,

 

Bruce B. Smith,

Magee City Attorney