DIAMONDHEAD, MS (WLOX) - The Diamondhead City Council violated the Open Meetings Act when four members met with the State Auditor to review a performance audit of the city. That's according to a report filed by a hearing officer with the Mississippi Ethics Commission.
The report is the result of a complaint filed by Councilwoman Nancy Depreo. Depreo alleges four council members met with the state auditor Jan. 31 without any public notice of the meeting. Depreo also claims she and Mayor Tommy Schafer were unaware of the meeting and were left uninformed of any details from the discussion.
The report says the city council responded to the allegations, admitting four council members met with the auditor to receive information related to the performance audit. The council argues no official action was taken during the meeting, and the same information given to them was previously provided to Depreo and Schafer.
Depreo acknowledged she and Schafer did meet with the state auditor in Jackson, according to the report, but no documentation concerning the audit was provided to them.
According to the report, Schafer responded to the complaint, saying he witnessed the Jan. 31 meeting at city hall and noted there was "clearly a discussion taking place." Schafer alleges the council members that met with the auditor drafted a letter referencing the audit and took official action at the next council meeting.
The ethics commission report says Schafer believes it was the council's intent to bypass the Open Meetings Act.
The report concludes the meeting between council members and the State Auditor should have been conducted as a public meeting with public notice and minutes recorded, as required by the Open Meetings Act.
Ethics commission hearing officer Chris Graham recommended the commission find the city council violated the Open Meetings Act and order the council to refrain from further violations.
Any party involved has five business days from receiving a copy of the report to file written objections. If objections are filed, a hearing before the hearing officer will be set for Tuesday, April 25 at 1 p.m. at the ethics commission offices in Jackson.