When We Get Behind Closed Doors
|Knox County Commissions got nothing on Lenoir City
when it comes to violating the Open Meetings Law. With the ink still wet
on the scathing Investigative Audit Report by the State Comptrollers
Office, LCUB board members first action was to violate more of the
state's laws. Holding an unannounced, unposted special called meeting
behind closed doors in the board room at the LCUB office Thursday
morning. The meeting lasted several hours. LCUB's general manager, Fred
Nelson, finally appeared in the lobby at the request of News Sentinel
reporter, Hugh Willett, but declined to answer any questions. Nelson did
present a written statement. Click
here for statement. (PDF). The statement contains answers to some of
the findings of the audit.
Some board members
stated that the meeting was an "executive session" with legal council
and therefore could be held in private. This is of course is patently
wrong. The law is crystal clear pertaining to open meetings. The Open
Meetings Act requires that:
The very narrow exception to the requirement of conducting all public business in the open applied only to private meetings between a public board and its counsel, so long as no discussion or deliberation takes place. Officials may provide counsel with facts and information regarding the lawsuit and counsel may advise them about the legal ramifications of those facts and the information given him. However, once any discussion, whatsoever, begins among the members of the public body regarding what action to take based upon advice from counsel, whether it be settlement or otherwise, such discussion shall be open to the public and failure to do so shall constitute a clear violation of the Open Meetings. From MTAS.
Further more, TCA 8-44-103. Notice of public meetings
8-44-105. Action nullified - Exception.
LCUB and several individuals apparently have a lot of explaining to do.
Once again our public officials have shown a callus disregard for abiding by the law and until such time serious enforcement and penalties are enacted, our public officials will continue to ignore the law.