The Sandy Springs City Council’s annual retreat, where the city’s policy agenda for the year is set, will be held sometime in January at City Springs rather than a cottage at Lost Corner Park as in recent years. That may provide better public access than in the small cottage, where this year’s retreat set-up may have violated the state open meetings laws, according to one expert.

At the January 2018 retreat, officials met in a room with no public seating. Instead, the public was seated in chairs in another room, facing the open doorway of the meeting room, making it difficult to see and hear discussions and leading to some complaints from journalists.

David E. Hudson, an attorney who serves on the board of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that government meetings must include room for at least some members of the public to be present in the meeting room. Being able to hear and see everything that happens in a meeting is requirement to comply with the Georgia Open Meetings Act, Hudson said.

City spokesperson Sharon Kraun said the city believes the retreat complied with open meetings laws due to the seating and its positioning. The set-up of the 2019 retreat in City Springs has not been determined, she said.