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Special Contribution


The law surrounds the local government contracting process with a number of requirements. Some of those requirements go primarily to the substance of the contract, and some deal largely with matters of form. Of the latter, the two points most often projected are the tangibility of the agreement and its location in the official records.

Beginning in 1863 and continuing in 1980, Georgia statutory law has highlighted both tangibility and location for the contracts of counties. Via a single mandate, the historic statute commands that "[a]U contracts entered into by the ordinary with other persons in behalf of the county shall be in writing and entered on his minutes."' Over the years the appellate courts have, on a number of occasions, articulated their views of the objects served by the mandate: to afford accessible information to the public on contracts being made by the county; to apprise taxpayers of the purposes for which their monies are being expended; to allow opportunity for citizen challenge to the county's exercise of power;' to open the public's business to inspection;' and to protect taxpayers against unauthorized and illegal expenditure agreements.

The desirability of such objects is, of course, incontestable. As with most matters, however, merit tends to turn upon perspective; different perspectives necessarily radiate tensions which, at the extreme, materialize in controversy. For 117 years, the statutory command on writing and entering county contracts has yielded its share of litigated controversy. Perhaps a useful purpose might be served by a brief effort to canvass, illustrate, and organize some instances of that litigation.