As Mayor of the City of Roswell, I take pride in my exceptional community, the integrity of our people and policies, and my job as a public servant. So, I was disappointed to read the opinion piece “The truth is out there – and it’s coming to Roswell” by Patrick Fox in last week’s edition of the Herald. Mr. Fox’s representation of me and what I said during the Roswell Open Forum meeting on June 1 was inaccurate and not at all consistent with the facts at hand nor the spirit with which I serve Roswell.
During the meeting, a number of residents reported being upset to find a flyer in their driveways containing misinformation about COVID-19 and the presidential election. I told them that I understood. Misinformation across social media and some news media is a nationwide problem—and not something Roswell is going to tackle. Commiserating with fellow residents about the issue of fake news does not mean I believe the City can restrict speech. Free speech is a right protected under the First Amendment. For Mr. Fox to suggest I “backed off” after our attorney spoke about legislating free speech is off base and insulting.
I have met privately with the residents who brought this to our attention. Part of my job is to help citizens understand what the City can and cannot do under federal, state and local laws. I meet with residents almost daily about issues. Sometimes the City can help, and other times I explain why we can’t assist them.
Mr. Fox then goes on to discuss the Oxbo Road project and the investigation initiated by my office into the project. He insinuates that I am withholding information about the investigation. I am not. This project dates back to 2007. The investigators are combing through thousands of emails and documents and conducting interviews, including past and present employees and elected officials. The scope of this investigation is far-reaching, and it is going to take time. It is vital to allow the investigators the time and space to do their jobs thoroughly and without interference. I will release the report to Council and then to the public as soon as I receive it.
Mr. Fox goes on to say citizens are “screaming” for community oversight of the Transportation Department. There is a very small group of people promoting this idea. However, it is something I do not support. Citizens elect Mayor and Council to oversee all city departments and operations.
Another layer of bureaucracy will only slow projects down, and is not efficient.
I also take exception to Mr. Fox implying that I am not a proponent of open government. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have always advocated for government transparency. It is something I take very seriously. Roswell makes getting information from the City as convenient as possible with online requests, and we stream all Council meetings, so our citizens can watch their government make decisions in real time. Citizens can also email me and Council at any time.
Mr. Fox also notes that I did not comment on an open records lawsuit settled several years ago between his newspaper and the Roswell Police Department. It is City policy to not comment on any type of litigation. This is common practice for organizations everywhere. Before the City settled, we hired a new police chief and put procedures in place to ensure the media receives all the information they are entitled to under Georgia’s open records laws.
I hope by addressing the presumptions and erroneous information in Mr. Fox’s piece, I have given people a better understanding of my character and my steadfast commitment as a public servant.
— Lori Henry, Mayor of Roswell