City of Cochran: Certified City of Ethics?

On October 11th, the City of Cochran Mayor Micahel Stoy announced his resignation in a letter to the residents. His reason for stepping down was because of an alleged secret meeting that was held by the City Council in July. According to the State’s Open Meeting Laws, the City’s Charter, and a city ordinance, the City Council must publicly announce the time and place of any meeting where official business will be discussed. Former-mayor Stoy contends that City Business was discussed at this meeting and is therefore illegal.

In his letter, Stoy said there is a video from July 26, 2016 displaying a meeting of the City Council in the lobby of City Hall where they allegedly considered official business concerning the city for a period of twenty minutes from 6:40 pm to 7:00 pm. The public was not made aware of this meeting and no members of the general public were present. Under The Open Meetings Act, a “meeting” is defined as “The gathering of a quorum of the members of the governing body of an agency at which any official business, policy, or public matter of the agency is formulated, presented, discussed, or voted upon;” Stoy went on to the list the members of the City Council that were present and listed officials that were witnesses. According to Stoy, four members of the Council attended while two members and the City Clerk were witnesses to the meeting. Since there are only six members on the Chocran City Council, if four members were “in attendance” then a quorum was reached, and the only question left is whether official business was discussed.

Upon the discovery of this alleged meeting, Stoy had the choice of reporting it to the Office of the Secretary of State, requesting an investigation by the Ethics Committee, or filing a complaint in the Probate Court. Since these actions could of shutdown the city, Stoy has decided that he will present the evidence against the City Council to the public and let them decide whether the Council acted with the community’s “values of integrity and openness when dealing with the public” considering the fact that the council did unanimously pass an ordinance that established Cochran as a Certified City of Ethics.

Since the resignation of former-mayor Stoy, City Major Richard Newbern had said that the city is ready to move forward and with twelve months left in the Stoy’s term, Newbern said that the city was in contact with the Secretary of State’s Office to determine whether a special election would be needed.

Stoy’s full statement can be found here.

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