Update; Board Member Removals and Records

Published on 22 March 2024 at 08:37

Washington, Georgia mayor Bruce Bailey has not yet informed Angela Booker or Alvin Jones of his decision to officially remove them from the housing authority board. At the hearing on March 8, 2023, Bailey was told by attorney Stewart Duggan, who represents the housing authority and thirty public housing authorities throughout the state of Georgia, that the city council and mayor have no authority to remove board members as the housing authority board is funded by the United States Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUD) and is a completely autonomous entity. He went on to say the mayor had no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Booker and Jones and had violated open records and open meetings laws. He said the housing authority is functioning well and has $2 million in the bank. Duggan said if Baily does remove them from the board, he will be filing a lawsuit in superior court for these violations. At the end of the hearing, Bailey said he would be making a decision and would notify Booker and Jones. The next housing authority meeting is scheduled to be held on April 24, 2024.


I had requested documents that included any letters or email communication Bailey sent to any members of board, commissions and authorities on February 29, 2024, which would have included the letters Bailey sent to Booker and Jones regarding their removal. I have still not received those documents. On the day of the hearing, when I entered city hall, I was told by city administrator Jerry deBin, that the documents were ready for me to collect and pay for. I did not have cash and the city customer service employee was unable to take a credit card payment at that time. I was told by deBin that I could take the folder with the documents and pay later in the day. I said I was attending the hearing right there in city hall and would try to pay after the hearing concluded. When I looked in the envelope, I saw the letters were not included so I gave the folder back to the city clerk and told her I would contact Bailey, who I had made my original request to, and see if he would provide them along with some other documents that were in my original request. I never left city hall with the folder.


I have since been told by Bailey that the original documents I requested are not available to me as they are pertaining to a pending lawsuit and a real estate transaction. He told me he will consult the city attorney, Adam Nelson about the matter but I have not received an update or teh documents.  The documents specifically are communication he sent to Booker, Jones and the chair and members of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). I spoke to Adrienne Williams, chair of the URA board and asked her if there was a real estate transaction pending regarding property under the jurisdiction of the URA and she said there is not, that she is aware of. Bill Gross has made a presentation regarding potential development his company can provide but no verbal or written agreement has been made at this time. Bailey sent an email to Williams and city council members telling them he would “have not choice” but to remove members of the URA or disband it entirely if the URA did not agree to sell the Gordon Street School property to the city for $1. Bailey contacted me and told me he sent a different version of the email to the URA board members that didn’t include the verbiage about removing board members or disbanding the board entirely. Since the emails and letters are being withheld from me, I cannot confirm if an email was sent or if it was, what it stated. I did speak to URA board member John Wylie who said he had not received any communication from Bailey at all since he has been appointed to the URA board.


Bailey sent me Microsoft Word documents of what he said he sent to Williams and the URA board members but not the actual email correspondence so I have no evidence if they were sent or not. The Word document he sent me with the verbiage he said he sent to Williams, was different from a copy of the actual email I obtained.  Specifically, a phrase indicating Bailey did not want the email to be shared with anyone, was missing from the Word document version he shared with me.


It is a violation of open records law to willfully withhold information that is to be public. The law states “Anyone who knowingly and willfully violates the open records law, by refusing access, failing to provide documents within the requisite time, or “attempting to frustrate access by intentionally making records difficult to obtain or review” may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and may be subject to a fine of $1000 for the first violation and a civil penalty or criminal fine of $2500 can be imposed for each additional violation committed within a twelve month period. The city may be required to pay the complaining party’s attorney fees as well.


There are four additional records requests I have made that are outstanding including requests for utility information that I made in November of 2023. Personal utility information was made available to Bruce Bailey last year during the campaign and he publicly stated how easy it was to obtain. It is to be made public under the law so it is entirely unclear why my request is repeatedly denied. I am requesting the information solely in relation to the utility deposits and an article I am working on related to the deposits paid for utility reconnections.


This is a developing story, updates will be published as they are available.


Written by Michelle Chaffee

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