JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — After calling for more public discourse on its proposed stormwater utility, the Johns Creek City Council voted 4-3 to close the door on reading aloud electronically submitted comments during meetings.
The action stemmed from an incident in which a non-resident submitted a defamatory statement that was read aloud and entered into the public record at a previous meeting.
Mayor Mike Bodker and city councilmen Lenny Zaprowski, Brian Weaver and John Bradbury voted to halt the formal reading practice which began in 2020 as accommodation during the pandemic.
The narrow vote means that electronic comments will now be disseminated to council members by the City Clerk’s Office through email.
Bodker and Zaprowski claimed to be fighting against misinformation and “trolls,” and argued that the best way to verify a person’s residency is by requiring them to attend meetings in-person and “show their face.”
As an alternative, Councilwoman Erin Elwood suggested requiring address numbers in the online submission form to verify residency. Councilman Chris Coughlin supported the provision.
Councilwoman Stephanie Endres called out the irony in the council’s discussion.
“We just spent an hour-plus talking about stormwater and saying we’re not communicating enough with the public, and now you don’t want them to communicate with you and to be able to have a voice with other residents. I mean it kind of seems hypocritical,” Endres said.
Now, if residents want to expand the reach of their comments beyond the City Council, they must now attend meetings in person.