05/01/2012: "No More Closed Sub-Committee Meetings"
Until recently the County Council has been united in refusing to allow the public and the press to attend their frequent sub-committee meetings, arguing they would not be free to fully express their thoughts on County policy, regulations and management if there was the possibility of reading about it in the local media.
This has not gone over well with the press and some members of the public, who have been asked to leave the meetings. The concern has been expressed to the Charter Review Commission, who have also expressed their concern, and their draft recommendations that will be put to a vote of the people expressly forbids the closed meetings.
So, last week two things happen. One: County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord reversed his previous opinion that the closed meetings were allowed, and sent a memo to the County Council stating the meeting should be open to the public. Two: At a special early start on Tuesday (9:00 AM; 05-1-12) the Council will hold a discussion -not a public hearing- on their own Rules of Procedure, that includes the following change to the rules that govern their meetings:
“Council Subcommittees. The County council may establish both standing and ad hoc subcommittees to address specific council issues and priorities and provide recommendations to the full council. No final action of the County Council shall occur in a subcommittee meeting. Every subcommittee meeting shall be open to the public, and notice of such meeting shall be given in the same manner as a regular or special meeting under the Open Public Meetings Act.”
Why the sudden change? There are elections coming up, not only for the proposed changes to the Charter that includes a requirement all meetings by the Council be public, but also an election for some County Council members.
No doubt the timing is a coincidence, but Council member Lovel Pratt said she too has changed her mind on allowing the public to observe the council at work, and last week said she will in fact be seeking re-election.