“It being essential to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government and to the maintenance of a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner, and that citizens be advised of and be aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the State of Mississippi that the formation and determination of public policy is public business and shall be conducted at open meetings except as otherwise provided herein.”
– Legislative declaration,
Mississippi Open Meetings Act
Last Tuesday we objected to a decision by the Water Valley Board of Aldermen to enter executive session to discuss “personnel” issues.
This objection follows what we perceive as a disturbing trend in our city government – closing the meeting to the public to discuss city business. The frequent and lengthy executive session portions of each meeting are a tell-tale sign something is not right.
Our state law spells out specific reasons for which a board may enter executive session. Our state law also spells out a specific process which must occur in order to legally enter executive session.
The Water Valley Board of Aldermen are not adhering to these laws.
An example is a personnel issue which is cited in each meeting as the reason the board is closing the meeting.
State law, specifically Section 25-41-7, spells out that personnel is a legitimate reason for entering executive session for the “transaction of business and discussion of personnel matters relating to the job performance, character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person holding a specific position.”
Our city officials routinely abuse this, citing personnel generally to close the meeting and operate without the scrutiny of the public.
Last Friday the Herald hand-delivered a copy of our state’s open meetings law. It is past time for our city government to start following the law.