Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Are Town Open Meeting Laws Just Smoke and Mirrors?

Town Of Alexandria:

3 local politicians are seen getting out of their cars and entering a local pub.  Is this an official meeting?  Of course not, they are probably just going out for dinner and a few drinks.

This is a small town and village, and the chances of seeing our local town or village board members standing in proximity of each other are very likely.  Our community has a lot of events and fundraisers, so it should not surprise anyone to see a  group sighting of local politico's.  It is no big deal and nothing nefarious is happening.

However, on January 3rd, a gathering took place at the town office chambers that started out as an informational meeting to discuss a project and share some logistics. As it was explained to me, Councilman Durand and Supervisor Hunneyman were the only board members in attendance , in addition Town Attorney Russell was  also  present.  I am ok with this, because no town business could be conducted without a 2/3's quorum.

Evidently, shortly after the conclusion of this first meeting a second similar informational meeting was to begin.  It was at the beginning of this second meeting that  Councilman Sweet unexpectedly  showed up and "sat in" on  this meeting.  It was  at this point that this became an unauthorized  town meeting because a quorum was now present.  It is disappointing that somebody did not make  this observation and ask one of the three town board members to excuse themselves.

Duck TestIf it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Meeting Test: If 3 board members are present, with the town attorney and they are all sitting around the same conference table in a room where they always conduct town business, then it is probably an official meeting and should have been announced  as outlined by the open meeting laws

Transparency is a word that some politicians  use to casually.  So much so, that it loses it's true meaning.  Following the "Open Meeting Laws" would be one of the best ways for a government to achieve transparency without all the smoke and mirrors.....

Bloggers Note:  As of the last town board meeting, the regularly scheduled February 13th meeting has been rescheduled to February 1st.