Government Meetings and Records Are Open

By JOSEPH PIEPER

KENNESAW, Ga. — It’s up to elected officials to prove they can meet in secret legally, not for the public to prove those meetings are illegal, Cobb County citizens were told at a Government Transparency Workshop at Kennesaw State University.

“Everything is open unless there is an exception,” said Jim Zachery, editor of the Valdosta Daily Times. “So, the presumption in Georgia law is that it’s always open. The strong public policy of the state of Georgia is open government.

“So that there has to be an exception that allows them to go back there behind closed doors, there has to be an exception that allows them to have those executive sessions and they have to be able to cite the legal exception. You don’t have to prove that something should be open, they have to prove that it can be closed.”

Zachery, a member of the board for the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, and fellow board member Ken Foskett, investigations editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, conducted the workshop Monday night at KSU. It was sponsored by the foundation and KSU’s campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

They spoke about how to use Georgia’s open meetings and open record laws to learn what is happening inside your local and state governments. They explained how to: access public records for information on operations, attend public meetings where elected officials make decisions that affect the public and challenge public officials when they don’t comply with open government laws.

Zachery said not everyone is aware that the burden of proof is on the government to show that meetings should be closed or records denied.  In fact, he added, Georgia is one of the few states in the United States that imposes a real penalty for violating the open government acts.

“In most states the penalty for violating the act is exactly like this [makes shame on you finger gesture],” Zachery said. “In Georgia first violation can cost you $1,000, the second violation in the same twelve-month period can cost you $25,000 as can subsequent violations and they can be concurrent.”

Ken and Jim
Ken Foskett, left, and Jim Zachery, right, are conducting a government transparency workshop at Kennesaw State University. (Photo by Joseph Pieper)

And there are only a few exceptions that the government can make to deny public access to a meeting or minutes.

“There are largely three exceptions. There a few more exceptions codified throughout the law, but we usually sort of broad stroke that by saying that it’s personnel, litigation and real estate,” Zachery said. “It’s important that you know that the law is much more specific than those three things.

“So that not all personnel (issues) can be talked about in executive session, not all things that are called litigation can be talked about in executive session and not all real estate can be talked about in executive session.”

This means the government can only use these three areas as exceptions if it does not pertain to public policy. If it involves public policy then that means it’s the public’s business and it is supposed to be open to them.

“Records are public because they belong to you, because government officials are doing your business,” Foskett said. “So, what they put in documents, what they keep in their cabinet files belongs equally to you as it does to them.”

Zachery said that some of the best advice he could give when dealing with record custodians and elected officials is to be nice and reasonable.

“You don’t need to go in pounding on desk and demanding and saying the word pursuant,” Zachary said. “Saying somebody’s name, being polite—saying please, saying thank you.

“And you know what all record custodians have in common and all elected officials have in common? They’re human beings and you treat them bad and they are going to wrestle. When they could make it available to you like that, they are going to take that three days, just because you were not a nice person.”

 

World War II veteran shares his story

By CAITLYN THOMSON

WOODSTOCK, Ga. — World War II veteran Antonio Joseph Corrao was born on Sep. 16, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, only years before the Great Depression. This event was only the first of many that he was raised, and thrived, through.

Corrao sat down in the comfort of his living room as he began telling his personal tale of World War II. He started by talking about how his parents emigrated from Italy to the United States and how they instilled a work ethic in him that many today are unaccustomed to.

Corrao is fluent in Italian and said he didn’t know any English until he grew older and began to learn at school and through his peers. His father owned a grocery store, which he poured his heart and soul into, until the Great Depression caused him to have to close it down.

Beginning work as a young teenager, Corrao said he, along with his other siblings, helped to make ends meet.

When speaking of his time in the military, Corrao spoke about all the trials and tribulations he faced along the way. Being a young man having just graduated high school in June 1944, Corrao said that by Dec. 7, 1944, he joined the Army. He said he received a letter in the mail telling him to sign up, so when he went to register, he chose the U.S. Army Infantry.

Corrao began his journey with the military by heading to Fort Dix, New Jersey where he turned in his civilian clothes and was issued a uniform.

Hopping aboard a train, he came to Camp Wheeler in Georgia, a camp now closed, only having been opened for the war.  Corrao said his training at Camp Wheeler lasted eight weeks before he was taken to Fort Meade in Maryland where he spent the next three weeks.

During his time at Fort Meade, Corrao said they were preparing to go to Europe for the Battle of the Bulge, but they were able to get the situation under control before he had to leave.

pic 1 veteranCorrao posing with a picture of himself from the past (Photo Credit: Caitlyn Thomas)

Continuing on, he said the soldiers then turned in their winter clothes and boarded another train to head toward Camp Stoneman in California. Ten days were spent at Camp Stoneman before the men were put on an Attack Transport APA ship.

Corrao said he remembers the night they left on the ship, recalling having to go underneath the Golden Gate Bridge as he stood upon the ship he would spend the next 18 months on. Within two days, he said they picked up nine more APA ships and sailed toward the Philippines.

Corrao explained the ships’ strategies to avoid below water submarines, saying that the ten ships would line up in a straight line and attempt to zigzag across the water, making it difficult for submarines to line up and aim at their ships.

“It takes a submarine 10 to 15 minutes to line up on a ship, so we would move back and forth to avoid being targeted,” Corrao said.

pic 2 veteranCorrao posing in his military garb, late 1940’s-early 1950’s. (Submitted Photo)

During this time, Corrao recalls a point when his ship was at the back of the line and ships called Destroyer Escorts, or DE’s, dropped depth charges on the submarines below. When these charges, much like garbage cans carrying explosives Corrao explains, hit their targets, he would feel the entire ship shake.

While on the subject of bombs, the interview took a turn as Corrao began speaking about one of the most infamous days in American history.

Pearl Harbor was bombed while Corrao was still in high school, too young to join the military at the time. When asked how he felt about the ordeal, he responded by saying, “Truman saved my life.”

Corrao said he believes that if it wasn’t for Truman dropping the bombs on the Japanese, then he may not be alive today.

As the interview progressed, Corrao began to speak about his social life overseas and how he kept in contact with his friends and family back home.

Corrao lived during a time when Victory Mail, or V-mail, was popular for soldiers, so they could send letters across the world to whomever they pleased. He described the paper as being thin with a border of red, white and blue.

For Corrao, there was only one person he cared to write to, a girl in his neighborhood by the name of Brigida LoCasio. Corrao said she was the one who stole his attention and his heart from the moment they met.

When he returned home from war, Corrao said he had to win the approval of her Italian father, who was very strict and wouldn’t let her date just anyone, but Corrao said he was determined to change that. Taking on the challenge, he impressed her father by speaking Italian to him when they met, and from that moment forward, her father accepted him into the family.

After dating for a while, Corrao said he proposed to her, then they married a year later, spending the next 67 years together.

This June will be two years since Brigida passed away. The couple raised four sons together while Corrao worked many years for a telephone company. Their sons grew up to have wives and children of their own, continuing the growth of the Corrao name.

Corrao said he and his wife moved to Florida for 15 years until his two grandchildren, Lauren and Leslie Corrao, were born in Georgia. His face lights up as he remembers how they packed up their things and moved to Georgia so they could watch their grandchildren grow up. Corrao said that Brigida said she didn’t want them to be the kind of grandparents who lived far away, unconnected to their grandchildren.

“My grandfather always has wanted the best for me, and he has supported me through all my endeavors,” Lauren Corrao said. “I don’t know where I would be without this man, and him being a World War II veteran just adds to his charisma.”

Corrao’s interview gives us a look into the life of a war veteran, making one realize how important the little things in life can be.  Those closest to him said they see him as an amazing hero for our country, a man who has come to earn the respect of those who know and love him.

When asked if he had any regrets throughout his 91 years of living, he responded with a simple “no,” without needing, even a second, to think about. Corrao said he knew that everything he experienced and went through has made him who he is today.

Georgia legislation allows pharmacists to carry overdose medication

By COURTNEY MAZZA

The 2017-2018 legislative session in Georgia will include a legislation from Georgia Overdose Prevention, or GOP, which would allow pharmacists to carry and dispense the overdose prevention medication, Naloxone, to people without a prescription.

In 2014, Georgia amended state laws with the passing of Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law and Expanded Naloxone Access Law, providing immunity, or protection from arrest, to those who seek medical assistance for themselves, or another person, who is experiencing a drug or alcohol related overdose. The bill also protects minors seeking medical attention for certain underage drinking offenses.

Not only does the law provide immunity for possession of certain drugs, probation and parole violations, drug paraphernalia and alcohol consumption, but the law also increases access to the treatment for opioid overdose, Naloxone. The GOP created and testified for the success of this law.

“After our law passed, we focused our efforts on educating Georgians about our law and the protection it provides, and on distributing Naloxone rescue kits and training to anyone at high risk of opioid overdose,” said Laurie Fugitt, co-founder of Georgia Overdose Prevention.

461 lives were saved by the GOP and Association of Human Resource Management, or AHRM, when kits were administered by community members, including relatives, friends and former drug abusers. These kits allow more time for a victim to receive proper medical attention to prevent death from an overdose.

The Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, Frank Rotondo, has been a long supporter of Naloxone programs for law enforcement, testifying his support of the 911 Medical Amnesty and Expanded Naloxone Access Law, and distributing information to all

Georgia police chiefs, encouraging the Naloxone programs.

“The support of these programs is a no-brainer from my point of view,” Rotondo said. “A very clear example was a police lieutenant whose daughter died of an overdose, and she couldn’t assist her daughter. Friends left her daughter on the side of the road after partying. She died when she could have been saved.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, since 1999 sales of prescription opioid drugs have increased, and deaths involving these drugs has quadrupled. The abuse of heroin in young adults ages 18-25 has more than doubled in the past decade, with 45 percent of heroin abusers also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers. In 2013, more than 8,200 people died of a heroin-related overdose.

According to a graph from Georgiaoverdose.com, people of all ages and ethnicities are dying in Georgia due to the abuse of opioid drugs. The lack of knowledge on medical amnesty laws and the availability of Naloxone are common reasons.

mapGeorgia Overdose Deaths from 2010-2015 (Photo courtesy of Georgriaoverdose.com)

University police departments across Georgia have also taken part in establishing Naloxone programs. As of 2016, 12 Georgia colleges’ law departments are equipped with Naloxone, including the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University.

In 2017, Georgia State University will also begin carrying Naloxone.

nalaxoneNaloxone is administered by injection (Photo courtesy of Google Images)

According to Lieutenant Ben Dickens, the Athens Clarke County Police Department, or  ACCPD, used Naloxone eight times in the past year, with seven successful reversals.

“We only had a small number of kits to officers during this last year,” Dickens said. “We are now pushing it out to all patrol officers and expect the usage rate to go up.”

According to the GOD, Cobb County, Fulton County and Gwinnett County, are all experiencing the highest drug overdose rates in Georgia. Gwinnett County, one of the 57 Georgia law enforcement departments carrying Naloxone, experienced 406 overdose deaths between 2010 and 2015, while Fulton County has experienced 696 known overdose deaths during those same years.

Earlier this year, at the urging of District Attorney Paul Howard and the Fulton County Heroin Task Force, the Fulton County commissioners voted unanimously to allocate $49,000 to fund Naloxone for first respondents.

Rotondo believes that every law enforcement agency should carry Naloxone, but city and county budgets limit these resources.

“It is probably one of the simplest decisions I had to make, to say that’s a very good bill, all law enforcement agencies should have it, it’s reasonably priced,” Rotondo said. “Why all don’t have it is a question of money, because the reality of it is that all law enforcement agents feel the same way I do. It’s better to save people.”

Retired professional athlete takes on Georgia youth soccer

By KATIE VAN LOAN

MARIETTA, Ga. – Simon Davey, a retired professional soccer player, is taking his love for soccer, and his history on the field, by working to bring soccer to children at low costs to parents.

Davey, father of three girls, reclines in his pool chair during the interview and cracks open a beer, signaling it’s not his first rodeo.

Originally born in Wales, Davey toured the world with professional teams such as Swansea City, Carlisle United and Preston North End.  Davey earned a spot as team captain on two of his professional teams, and gained recognition when he was selected for the Professional Footballers Association Team of the Season, an award voted for by all the professional players in the Football League.

Davey’s modest tendencies and quirky sense of humor became apparent when asked why he decided to play soccer professionally.

“It’s what my dad wanted me to do, and you’d be out of your mind to cross an angry Welsh man,” Davey said. “Fortunately for me, I had a knack for fútbol and developed a love for the game.”

Davey sports a thick British accent and commonly refers to soccer as “fútbol,” and the field as a “pitch.”  Relaxation sweeps over Davey as he begins to reminisce on the sport that he dedicated his life to.

Davey started living the life of a local superstar at the age of 16 when he became the second youngest member to ever play for the Swansea City soccer team in 1987.  While most children attended high school and lived at home, Davey toured the world with the professional soccer players Frank Rijkaard and David Beckham.

Davey played with four different teams before retiring from the league and entering the coaching world.  Davey said his retirement from playing soccer came earlier than he expected.  “I was using a medicine ball for workouts and I just felt something snap,” Davey said. “Then the pain came.”

Davey said he had injured his back during the workout, leading to the end of his playing career ended at the age of 27. Following his injury, Davey said he decided not to part ways with the sport that he loved.

pic 1 soccerDavey making his debut on the professional soccer field. (Submitted Photo)

Preston Youth Academy manager, David Moyes, gave Davey a chance by allowing him to coach, and it was not long until Moyes promoted Davey to the head of Preston’s Youth Academy.

“When I started coaching, I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be,” Davey said.  “I’m not glad that my injury happened, but I am grateful for where I am now. I think that playing soccer was more of a step stone that lead me to coaching it.”

Davey exuded confidence and positivity during the interview, saying he eventually began coaching his own professional soccer team called the Barnsley Football Club. Under Davey’s wing, Barnsley conquered teams such as Liverpool and Chelsea to make an appearance at the FA Cup semi-finals for their first time in 96 years.

“I can’t even explain how it felt when we beat Chelsea to make it to the semi-finals,” Davey said. “What I can tell you is that we celebrated properly after the game that night.”

After his contract with Barnsley ended, Davey said he went on to manage Darlington Soccer Club and then Hereford United, where his professional-coaching career ended.

pic 2 soccerDavey holding the Welsh Cup in 1992. (Submitted Photo)

Despite the ending of this phase of coaching, Davey said he still decided to stay within the soccer community, but this time he moved across the world to do it. In May of 2012, Davey said he received a phone call from a friend asking if he would like to start up a youth soccer club in the United States.

“My knee-jerk reaction was to decline the offer,” Davey said. “Accepting that position meant moving my three young daughters and my wife to America.”

However, after much deliberation, Davey said he decided to accept the position as Director of the Southern Soccer Academy in Marietta, Georgia.

“The girls wanted to kill me when I told them that we were moving,” Davey said. “Fortunately for me, I’m just as stubborn as my dad, so their whining didn’t faze my decision much. Besides, they love America now, so I don’t feel too terribly guilty.”

Less than two weeks after the phone call, Davey moved to the United States and began organizing one of the largest not-for-profit youth soccer leagues in the Southeast. In addition to moving from a different country, Simon also dealt with building a soccer club from the ground up.

“If I knew how much work it was going to be in the beginning, there is a good chance that I would not have taken the job,” Davey said. “I’m talking 16-hour days and working all night trying to merge five of Georgia’s largest soccer clubs into one super club.  A lot of people quit early on because the project was just so huge.”

Southern Soccer Academy, or SSA, provides soccer training for 3-19-year-old boys and girls and focuses on keeping the costs low for the parents.

“Organized sports are extremely expensive,” Davey said. “Parents pay upwards of $2000 a year so that their kids can join a team. The goal of SSA is to keep the costs low by creating a larger club with more members.”

With the help of his staff, Davey said he works to ensure that finances do not exempt children from joining a soccer club.

“Every kid should be part of some sort of team,” Davey said. “You learn a lot by working with other people to accomplish, or score, a goal. I think it’s important that these large, organized clubs focus less on the profits coming in and more on teaching the kids about fútbol.”

Davey’s journey took him from player to coach, finally leading him to the position of head director for an entire club right here in our community.

“Soccer has been a part of my life since I can remember,” Davey said. “I’ve worked with every aspect of the sport and now I am in a spot where I’d like to contribute the knowledge that I have gained in order to help others fall in love with soccer.”

pic 3 soccerKatie Van Loan and Simon Davey posing post interview. (Submitted Photo)

Elephants exit stage right as top comes down on ‘Greatest Show on Earth’

By KATIE VAN LOAN

ATLANTA – After 146 years, The Ringling Brother’s Circus is passing into American history, with plans to perform their last show in May of 2017.

The circus began in the mid-1800s when Phineas Barnum trained animals to do spectacular tricks, and the five Ringling brothers performed skits filled with death-defying acts.  The two eventually combined to create the modern-day circus.

People from all over America traveled to see the oddities that the “Greatest Show on Earth” held. However, as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.”

circus 12017 performance of Barnum and Bailey’s circus. (Submitted Photo)

A variety of reasons contribute to the decision to end the show, though high-operating costs paired with declining attendance rates play a small role in the decision.

According to the Associated Press, Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus said “it has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.”

One of the biggest reasons for the show ending is due to the costly, drawn-out battle with animal rights activists.

For years, the circus has been battling with activists that say forcing animals to perform is unnecessary and cruel.  The activists eventually won the fight in 2016 when all of the elephants from the circus were sent to live on a conservation farm in Florida.

“When we lost the elephants, we lost the show,” said Juliette Feld, the company’s chief operating officer.

Animals were a staple of the show, starting when Barnum brought an elephant named Jumbo to America in the 1800s.  Elephants soon became an immediate spectacle, weighing in at around 10,000 pounds each, yet having the capability to do handstands, or balance on a ball.

Research shows that ticket sales dropped by nearly 30 percent after the elephants were eliminated from the show in May of 2016.

circus 2Elephants performing one of their many tricks for the circus. (Submitted Photo)

The endangered Asian elephants were retired into one of the most prestigious research and care-taking facilities for elephants in the world.

The Feld Company owns the 200-acre conservation center in central Florida that the retired elephants now inhabit.  All 42 of the circus elephants now reside in the Center for Elephant Conservation, or CEC, where professionals care for them around the clock.

The main goal of the staff at the CEC is to protect and research the Asian elephants. With the arrival of the final load of circus elephants, the CEC now boasts the largest elephant herd in the Western hemisphere, with over 50 adults and 21 babies, all born at the conservation center.

There may be sadness for many as they look back and reminisce on the days of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey’s circus, they can, at least, take heart in the fact they got to experience it at all.  Many will never experience the magic of seeing the acrobats do flips on tight ropes nearly 40 feet in the air, or watching elephants gallivant the ring bowing to the crowds after the completion of a show.

The circus ran for 146 years, “a year older than baseball” Kenneth Feld likes to brag, and it brought joy to people all over America. Now, after nearly a century and a half of entertainment, the curtain is finally closing on “The Greatest Show on Earth.”