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TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2007
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Lawrence attorney backs closed meeting held by commission

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — Lawrence County attorney Cecil Caine on Monday defended the commission's decision to hold a closed meeting in June, but his statements appeared to discredit previous comments by Chairman Mose Jones.

The executive session came under question when Caine did not certify the private meeting beforehand as required by the state's open meetings law. Jones said at that time that the closed meeting was to protect the "good name and character of an employee," and later said commissioners also discussed a lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department.

Due to the surrounding circumstances, it became clear that much of the discussion revolved around complaints about the job performance of County Administrator Linda Harville. This was later confirmed by multiple sources.

The sunshine law allows an executive session to protect an employee's good name and character, but not if the complaint has to do with the job performance of an elected official or managerial-level employee, such as the county administrator.

After reviewing the open meetings law June 14, Commissioner John Terry agreed they may have erred and called the Association of County Commissioners for guidance. Terry said Executive Director Buddy Sharpless recommended that the commission release the information in an open meeting after reviewing it with the county attorney, who was on vacation at the time.

While waiting for Caine to return, Jones insisted again that the meeting had to do with pending litigation.

Caine refuted those claims Monday when he said there was a brief exchange between him and the sheriff regarding a lawsuit, but that it had nothing to do with the 11/2-hour executive session.

He said the commission met privately to protect an employee and had not acted illegally. However, he did ask that commissioners inform him about all executive sessions before meeting so he can ensure it fits the "narrow group of subjects that can be discussed."

Jones did not return calls to The Daily on Monday requesting comment.

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