Lawsuit says Peachtree City violated Sunshine Laws

Special to Fayette Newspapers

John Dufresne filed suit against the City of Peachtree City Mayor and Council Members, the City of Peachtree City, and the Peachtree City Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) in Fayette County Superior Court on Feb. 2.

The suit alleges that Mayor Vanessa Fleisch and Council Members Mike King, Terry Ernst, Phil Prebor and Kevin Madden, while serving as WASA board members, conducted a closed meeting Executive Session during the November 5, 2018, WASA meeting, and subsequently approved a change to the employees’ health insurance policy that increased employee costs, all in violation of O.C.G.A §50-14-1.

“Peachtree City Council simply needs to follow the sunshine law, especially given the very limited oversight of their actions as the WASA Board. This meeting had several serious errors, which shows their contempt for the law,” Dufresne said.

Dufresne previously served on the WASA board until the Mayor and Council viewed the WASA board as disobedient and simply removed the entire board thru General Assembly legislative action. They substituted themselves as the WASA board members.

Dufresne pointed out that the Council’s moves were political and not authorized by law. Dufresne suggested, that “At the heart of this, is the Mayor and Council desire to control WASA, and the improper exercise of their power to do so. This alleged Open Meeting violation is just another open government violation by an experienced Mayor and Council that knows better.”

The record shows the WASA board considered four items on the November 5, 2018, meeting agenda. The first item was Health Insurance Presentation. A consultant presented plan options for renewing the employee health insurance policy and recommended one plan. The board took no action after the presentation, made no proper motion to table or continue under Robert’s Rules of Order, and dismissed the consultant.

The board moved on the remaining three agenda items before adjourning into a closed meeting Executive Session allegedly to discuss “Personnel, Real Estate and Potential Litigation.”

The Mayor and Council returned to the public meeting with only one item remaining: “Adjournment.” Instead, without following the rules, including reopening the matter for discussion, Defendants immediately approved the health insurance plan recommended by the consultant, but also included a feature the consultant had not mentioned in his public meeting presentation. Insurance costs for employees went up, and Dufresne challenges the propriety of the vote due to the Open Meetings violations.