The Office of Attorney General Sam Olens has cited the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County -which is in charge of South Georgia Medical Center – with a fine and training requirements following the authority’s failure to comply with open government laws.
The punishment follows an investigation stemming from a February meeting where the authority stated it had been in executive session before the regularly-scheduled meeting. The executive session was not posted or advertised according to Georgia Open Meetings laws.
The authority confirmed that it did violate the Georgia Open Meetings Act after a claim was brought forth by the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times.
Counsel for the attorney general’s office, Jennifer Colangelo, said the authority violated the act by conducting an unadvertised executive session, failing to notify the public of the topics being discussed in executive session, failing to notified the public on matters the authority voted on, and discussing matters during the executive session that are not permitted under Georgia law.
In her response which was published by The Valdosta Daily Times, Colangelo wrote, “If we were to proceed to litigation or prosecution, we would expect fines to be levied against any public officials who participated in these alleged violations should they prove to be true, as well as fees and costs against the Hospital Authority.” Those fines could reach $1,000 for each person in attendance.
To avoid individual fines, the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County will have to pay a $500 civil penalty to the state and members of the board will have to attend an open government training session with the Attorney General’s Office.
I don’t know about you, but I like when the media holds the government accountable – not the other way around.