by Robin Kemp

The Morrow City Council will appoint several people to its Downtown Development Authority and Urban Redevelopment Authority boards at tonight’s meeting, including three members who sit on the URA.

The DDA has not met since August 22, 2019, when it held a joint special called meeting during then-Mayor Jeff DeTar’s administration, which apparently involved the sale of “The Vacant Space” at Southlake Mall. The URA voted on November 7, 2019, two days after Lampl and DeTar entered a runoff–to assign the “Vacant Space” at Southlake Mall to the DDA for a pending sale. (At present, county tax records show the Morrow DDA owns four properties.) Ever since Lampl beat DeTar by 65 votes, backers of DeTar have attacked Lampl but refuse to do so on record.

According to the published agenda, URA members Lana Labay and Nancy Hargis would be appointed to the DDA to 2024 and Alaina Reaves would be appointed to 2023.

Councilwoman Dorothy Dean will be reappointed to the DDA until 2026. Bonita Crawford and Cherie Crisp will be reappointed to 2025, and Sylvia Norris will be reappointed to 2026.

The last published minutes of Morrow’s URA are from August 26. During that meeting, board members Lana Labay, Alaina Reaves, and Nancy Hargis approved minutes from:

  • February 20, 2020: Approval of the November 7, 2019 meeting minutes, followed by a 36-minute executive session, no after-action recorded. The November 7 meeting involved a motion by then-secretary Labay “to authorize the Chairman or the Secretary, in his [then-Chairman’s Bert Watkins’] absence, to assign the property known as The Vacant Space at Southlake Mall to the DDA for a closing under a current Purchase and Sale Agreement,” which Watkins seconded and the majority [Watkins and Labay] passed. The 2020 meeting schedule was passed. Reaves arrived at 5:43 p.m. and “There was a brief discussion to explain to Alaina what had transpired prior to her arrival at the meeting.” The board also had approved the August 22, 2019 minutes. That day, the URA held both regular and special called joint meeting with the Downtown Development Authority, which also held a regular meeting and published its own minutes from the special called joint meeting.
  • March 9, 2021: 22-minute discussion with mayor and council, during which “Mayor John Lampl discussed the importance of voting on contracts to move the city business forward. He also talked about the importance of touring other cities to become familiar with the growth we want to see in Morrow.”
  • March 29, 2021: An all-day meeting from 8:06 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. “Nancy Hargis made a motion to appoint Lana Labay as Chair, seconded by Alaina Reaves. The motion passed unanimously.” Next was URA training with attorney Kirby Glaze, followed by a “Driving City Tour.”
  • May 21, 2021: An all-day meeting from 9:05 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. for a “Driving Development Tour” of Woodstock, Canton, and Marietta.
  • June 15, 2021: The URA met from 3:09 p.m. to 5:38 p.m. “Morrow Mayor John Lampl reviewed a set of plans for ground up commercial construction to demonstrate all the information in a set of plans and all the work that goes into developing ground up construction.”
  • July 27, 2021: The URA met from 1:33 p.m. to 3:59 p.m. “Mayor John Lampl reviewed proposals recently reviewed for a restaurant build out within the Industry Room at the Morrow Center. This exercise was a learning opportunity for members to understand the selection process for different work within the City of Morrow Economic Development Department. Members were invited to tour the unfinished area known as the Dark Space, or Exhibit Space.”

The Georgia Open Records Act states, “The regular minutes of a meeting subject to this chapter shall be promptly recorded and such records shall be open to public inspection once approved as official by the agency or its committee, but in no case later than immediately following its next regular meeting; provided, however, that nothing contained in this chapter shall prohibit the earlier release of minutes, whether approved by the agency or not.”

By law, those minutes “shall, at a minimum, include the names of the members present at the meeting, a description of each motion or other proposal made, the identity of the persons making and seconding the motion or other proposal, and a record of all votes. The name of each person voting for or against a proposal shall be recorded. It shall be presumed that the action taken was approved by each person in attendance unless the minutes reflect the name of the persons voting against the proposal or abstaining.”

In addition, “A summary of the subjects acted on and those members present at a meeting of any agency shall be written and made available to the public for inspection within two business days of the adjournment of a meeting.”

Should the appointments pass, Morrow would not be unique in having multiple overlapping members across appointed development boards. Forest Park’s URA and DDA appointed boards are identical–both chaired by Mayor Angelyne Butler.

Both Butler and Lampl hold Georgia real estate licenses.

Lampl is listed as the contact for the Morrow DDA on LoopNet, which is advertising 10.81 acres for lease in Olde Towne Morrow, rebranded as “The District.” In 2017, Lampl pleaded no contest to five counts of falsifying fire reports as part of a plea deal stemming from a special-called grand jury indictment over Olde Towne Morrow. After serving probation and paying fines and restitution, Lampl’s record was sealed under Georgia’s First Offender Act, which means he has been exonerated under state law. He also sits on the board of the Development Authority of Clayton County (Invest Clayton), which handles large commercial real estate deals for the county. Lampl was appointed by unanimous vote to Invest Clayton’s board in February as the late Commissioner Sonna Singleton Gregory’s nominee.

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