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SecretsPosted Friday, March 7, 2008, at 12:14 PM
We don't like secrets in the news business, so two stories that have come to my attention this morning, I find disturbing.
The first one comes out of neighboring Murfreesboro, where school officials there are holding a meeting today that is closed to the public and the press over allegations of rape that supposedly occurred recently on a school bus.
But closing the meeting violates the state Sunshine Law, said Rick Hollow, the legal counsel with the Tennessee Press Association.
While I can understand protecting the identity of the girl in question, there has to be ways to open this meeting to the public and reporters without exposing the alleged victim. What I find disturbing is the attitude of the head of the school system
Gill, however, disagreed with Hollow's interpretation of the law, said Evans, the system spokesman.
Sorry, but this doesn't hold water. If any group is meeting to discuss options or recommendations they want to present to Gill, then they are contributing to the decision making process, and that sort of thing can not be closed to the public, according to Tennessee's Sunshine Law. In my opinion, the meeting should be made public, but not the tape if it reveals the child's identity.
Another case doesn't involve the Sunshine Law, but instead, the court system. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, a judge is trying to disbar an attorney in secret. Apparently, this fellow has been a busy bee in exposing crooked dealings in Knox County and this has seemingly upset some powerful people.
U.S. District Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier in January filed under seal proceedings to strip attorney Herbert S. Moncier of his right to practice law in federal courts in the Eastern District of Tennessee, a move that if successful likely would take from him the ability to handle federal cases nationwide.
So how is the press to know of what's happening if this is kept off the docket entirely? This is frightening. These sort of measures have been seen in national security/terrorist cases, but this is the first time I've seen a judge try to keep a obviously politically charged case out of the public's view.
It reminds me of a case in England that I read about last month:
Last autumn a small English congregation was rocked by the news that two of its parishioners had fled abroad. A 56-year-old man had helped his pregnant wife to flee from social workers, who had already taken her son into care and were threatening to seize their baby.
Thank goodness this sort of thing doesn't happen here. What do you think about this issue?
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Brian Mosely is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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