Consider the following list our Fourth Estate counsel to county commissions, city councils, and school boards everywhere on executive sessions and general government openness. Citizens should hold their elected officials to the standards below. These are Ten Commandments for Open Meetings:
ONE: Do not gather as a quorum outside of regular meetings, and do not hold special meetings without giving at least 24 hours public notice.
TWO: Do not habitually add last-minute items to the agenda, and do not act on anything not listed on the posted agenda.
THREE: Do not abuse the litigation excuse for executive sessions to speculate about possible or imagined lawsuits.
FOUR: Do not stretch the personnel excuse for executive sessions to discuss policy issues. Example: Creating a new position or changing a department’s job descriptions are policy decisions and not appropriate topics for a closed meeting.
FIVE: Do not dial up the “negotiations” excuse to suddenly exclude the public from discussion of controversial issues that were previously aired thoroughly in open session.
SIX: Do not allow executive session conversations to stray to other topics.
SEVEN: Do not violate the spirit of the open meeting law with frequent phone, email or text dialogues with other members. Reach consensus at the meeting.
EIGHT: Do not make a habit of whispering or passing notes at meetings. You were elected to speak for us. Tell what you have to say out loud and proud!
NINE: Allow public input at every meeting. Include it on every agenda.
TEN: Be as transparent as possible. Do not hold executive sessions simply because counsel advised it is “legal” to do so. Ask yourself: “Is it absolutely critical we discuss this privately?”
By Brian J. Hunhoff
Yankton County (S.D.) Observer
See the full column: Ten Commandments for Open Meetings |