Advisory Committee Roles and Expectations

The General Role of Athens-Clarke County's Advisory Boards and Committees 

Advisory committees  are a structured  way for individual  citizens  to share their  opinions  and perspectives, study issues, and develop recommendations in a focused,small group structure. 

The primary  purpose  of  advisory  committees  is to provide  judicious  advice, from  a citizen perspective, to the Mayor and Commission which is the Unified Government's  elected policy- making body.

Advisory committee activities  may  include  study  of critical issues, hearing  public  testimony, independent  research, and review  of staff reports  and recommendations - all  of  which are intended to enable the committee to discuss,formulate,and for ward well developed,thoughtful recommendations to the Mayor and Commission in a timely manner.

Mayor and Commission Decision Making

In making decisions, the Mayor  and Commission considers general citizen comment, advisory committee recommendations, staff recommendations, Mayor  and Commission priorities  and goals, research and background information, and individual Commissioner perspectives.

The Mayor and Commission expects to receive recommendations  from advisory committees that reflect the individual and collective knowledge and thinking of the committee, particularly  from a citizen perspective. Your recommendations may be transmitted as part of the staff report or as a distinct memorandum or report either attached to the staff report or transmitted separately to the Mayor and Commission. The staff liaison for your committee can assist with this effort; and in all cases, a copy of your recommendation or report should be filed with both the staff liaison for your committee and with the Clerk's Office,as it is a public record.

The Mayor  and Commission also expects that  staff will present  recommendations from  their respective professional perspectives. There may be times  when the professional opinions  and recommendations  of staff differ  in part or in whole from yours or that of the committee, and that's okay. Differences of perspective in policy formulation and deliberation are inherent  in the work of an organization that welcomes diverse viewpoints.

There also may be times when your advisory committee's  recommendations  will not prevail or will be modified  by the Mayor  and Commission. It is important to recognize that  this is not a rejection of the  integrity  of the  recommendation, but is an inevitable part  of the process of municipal decision making where  a variety of views, perspectives, and recommendations are considered.


Expectations for Advisory Committee Members

It is expected that:

  • All advisory board  and committee meetings are to be conducted  in public session and noticed  in  accordance with  State law, unless otherwise  advised by the  Athens-Clarke County Attorney.
  • Individual  committee members  and  the  collective  group  will  be  fair, impartial and respectful of the public,staff,and each other.
  • Committee   members   will  respect  the  limitations  of  their   individual  and  collective authority. The role of the committee is to advise the Mayor and Commission and/or staff. Please keep in mind that committee appointment does not empower  you to make final decisions, unless  authorized  by  State  law  or  the  group's  enabling  ordinance,  or  to supervise staff.
  • Members  will  strive to appreciate differences  in approach  and point  of view, whether from each other, the community, the Mayor and Commission, or staff.
  • Each member  will participate  in the group's discussions and work assignments, without dominating the discussion or activity of the committee.
  • The committee chair will ensure that all members have a fair, balanced and respectful opportunity to share their knowledge and perspectives.
  • The committee will attempt  to reach consensus on issues. If consensus is not possible, strong differing opinions such as "minority" opinions  should  be recorded  and acknowledged in the committee's report to the Mayor and Commission.
  • There are "no  surprises" from  the Committee  either  in the  nature  of the  work  being undertaken  by the committee or the  method  and timing for  conveyance of recommendations to the Mayor  and Commission. The staff liaison fulfills  an important role in assisting the committee in this regard.
  • Any comments to the media about the Committee's work should be channeled through the Chair. If there is appropriate balance on the Committee,not all members would share an identical perspective.  When an individual member,other than the Chair,is giving their perspective to the media, it is difficult for the media or average citizens to discern that this may not be the consensus opinion of the Committee.  This is not fair to the Committee or the process.
  • When a consultant is retained  by the Unified Government  as part of the Committee's work,the consultant will be managed by staff as there is a contractual obligation between the  Unified  Government  and the consultant.   Additionally, the  consultant  will need to have a single point of contact for the engagement. The Committee will act in an advisory role and work  with the consultant  and staff to accomplish the charge provided  by the Mayor and Commission.

 Please be careful to not deliberate  about Committee  work and issues via personal e-mail or in unnoticed  "side meetings or gatherings" as these actions may be in violation  of open meeting laws.The Attorney is available to consult with or provide advice to committees in this regard and on any other legal issue.


Staff liaisons

Each Athens-Clarke County advisory  board, commission, or committee has an assigned staff liaison. The word liaison is used deliberately  by the Unified Government  to describe the nature of the staff role in relation  to the committee, instead of the phrase "committee staff." A liaison is defined as "one who maintains communication."

While Athens-Clarke County committee liaisons have some differing  duties, depending on past committee  practice, time  availability, and departmental resources, in general staff liaison are responsible for:

  • Ensuring that meeting notifications and recordkeeping occurs consistent with  applicable State laws.
  • Serving as a communication link between the committee, administration, departments, and the Mayor and Commission, as appropriate.
  • Providing professional guidance, issue analysis and recommendations.
  • Assisting the  committee with  research, report   preparation, and  correspondence  in keeping with  the committee's Mayor  and Commission-approved  charge and depending on their work load and time availability.
  • Making sure the intent  of the advisory committee  is not lost after a decision, and that it is conveyed to the Mayor and Commission in a timely manner.
  • Assisting the advisory committee in staying on track and focused.
  • Presenting  advisory  committee recommendations   to  the  Mayor  and  Commission, if requested to do so by either the committee or the Mayor and Commission.
  • Maintaining a positive working relationship with the Chair and committee members.

The liaisons are staff professionals with significant work responsibilities  in addition  to their committee  liaison activities.  In general, the liaisons are individuals  who have significant  staff responsibilities  that  relate to the same work area as the committee. The liaisons do not work "for" or "at the direction of" the committee. They are professionals who work with the committee to develop information and recommendations for Mayor and Commission consideration.