NA City Council Jan 7, Perry Holcomb (copy)

North Augusta resident Perry Holcomb speaks about the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam during a January 2019 City Council meeting. Holcomb sued the city, claiming a FOIA violation during a May 2018 meeting. 

North Augusta resident Perry Holcomb has filed an initial brief to the South Carolina Court of Appeals regarding a Freedom of Information Act case against the city of North Augusta.

Holcomb sued the city in November 2018. His initial lawsuit stated that the city, mayor and City Council violated FOIA when City Council amended a list of projects for Capital Projects Sales Tax IV. That list was included in a document called “Agenda 050718 Complete.”

In October 2019, circuit court judge Clifton B. Newman signed an order in favor of Holcomb, finding that the city did violate FOIA, enjoining the city from future similar violations and awarding attorney’s fees and costs to Holcomb.

The city appealed Newman’s order.

The brief filed by Holcomb on June 25 states that the circuit court was correct in finding that the city violated FOIA when it amended the list of projects and that the court was correct in finding that the “Agenda 050719 Complete” constituted the meeting agenda for the purposes of FOIA.

The S.C Code of Laws states that "after the meeting begins, an item upon which action can be taken only may be added to the agenda by a two-thirds vote of the members present and voting; however, if the item is one upon which final action can be taken at the meeting or if the item is one in which there has not been and will not be an opportunity for public comment with prior public notice given in accordance with this section, it only may be added to the agenda by a two-thirds vote of the members present and voting and upon a finding by the body that an emergency or an exigent circumstance exists if the item is not added to the agenda."

The brief filed by Holcomb states that the first part of the law – the two-thirds vote – appears to have been satisfied, but not the finding of emergency or exigent circumstances.

“Without satisfying both prongs, the amendment attempted by the City at the May 7, 2018, City Council meeting violates FOIA, entitling Holcomb to declaratory and injunctive relief and consequently attorney’s fees and costs,” the brief states.

Regarding whether the document is an agenda, the brief says that “if the City did not want the Agenda 050718 Complete/Regular Agenda of May 7, 2018, to be treated as an agenda, it should not have called it an agenda.”

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Lindsey is the North Augusta reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017, and grew up in Hodges, SC.