The Classic Center Authority violated Georgia’s Sunshine Law during a March board meeting when they conducted an executive session without following through with proper protocol.
The Classic Center Authority was met with criticism from student journalists after Tuesday’s meeting when the board improperly entered into a private executive session, violating different acts within Georgia’s Sunshine Law. The meeting covered a host of various topics, such as Classic Center financials, the Elevate Campaign, the Classic Center Arena Letter of Intent and University of Georgia spring graduation ceremonies.
The Classic Center Authority was found to have violated The Official Code of Georgia section 50-14-1 of the Georgia Open Records Act, also known as the Sunshine Law. The law states that all meetings must be open to the public, with a motion to enter into executive session passed through a vote by the board. The board did not call a vote, but asked student journalists present at the meeting to exit.
In 1989, the CCA was sued by newspapers the Athens Banner-Herald and Athens Daily News for violating the Sunshine Law, by preventing journalists from sitting in on public meetings.
The meeting, which is held monthly, was headed by president and CEO of The Classic Center, Paul Cramer. Cramer started the meeting by stating that the arena had a successful year to date, with “four really strong months ahead of us.”
The Classic Center is to host 16 events in the entertainment realm through March and April, bringing in a hefty profit.
“These are ticketed events with $1.2 million through the ticket system during this period. So we're making a really busy stretch”, said Philip Verrastro, executive of theater and entertainment events, who was in attendance.
The board shared details of The Elevate Campaign, which has surpassed its goal of raising $5.5 million. The campaign, launched in August by the Classic Center, is focused on “elevating music, entertainment, and education through innovative programs at The Classic Center, all of which will benefit Athens-Clarke County and the entire state of Georgia,” according to its website. The money raised will go towards initiatives such as The Georgia Music Hall of Fame and partnerships with local entities like the Career Academy and various UGA management programs.
The letter of intent for a future 1,000-car parking deck on Hickory Street has been finalized and signed by Mallory and Evans Development, Cramer stated at the meeting.
“Our attorney has been through it. They feel good about it,” Cramer said of the LOI.
Developers have hired architectural firm Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart and Associates, Inc. to design the parking deck.
Details of multiple spring graduations for the University of Georgia were also discussed in the meeting. With Stegeman Coliseum in unstable condition, the University has made a deal with The Classic Center to host 17 of its spring graduation ceremonies.
“The volume of people we are going to put through this building is staggering,” Cramer said of the ceremonies.
The Classic Center hosts around 700 events a year, generating large sources of revenue for the Athens area.