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"Open" meetings should be preserved

Posted Monday, October 22, 2007, at 10:14 AM

Some of the individuals who are supposed to be serving us want to escape into secrecy...again.

The state legislature’s open meetings subcommittee of yet another committee will be listening to proposals concerning the state’s “Sunshine Law” on Tuesday.

“The Tennessee Municipal League, which represents cities, and the Tennessee County Commissioners Association want the legislative panel to require a quorum of a body before open meetings law applies,” the Associated Press reports.

In other words, that leaves a huge loophole in which authorities could meet in small groups rather than a body, hit the cell phones and/or e-mail, bounce proposals off each other and make decisions. Then, when meeting in a full group, they go through the motions of a “public discussion” before acting as if a (previously-made) decision is actually being made at the meeting.

The state needs the strictest limitations on any “meetings” taking place away from the public eye. Our people deserve no less.

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Back in the 80's in Tullahoma, you would regularly see the "real" business conducted at the local watering hole after the public meeting concluded. Over the years, in other communities, it was amazing how good ol' boys would have a closed door meeting to flesh out what they would do in the public meeting. Once we would catch them, the guilty parties would always say that the Sunshine Law "didn't apply to them."

It looks like this is just more of the same.

-- Posted by Brian Mosely on Mon, Oct 22, 2007, at 10:57 AM

I certainly believe in the public knowing what decisions are being made, but I also know from numerous business meetings that we would be crippled if we had to conduct those meeting in front of our clients.

There is no way to bounce ideas around without every word being criticized and analyzed, so the ideas may never come out.

Some of the best ideas have come from "dumb" ideas that were discussed and refined. While the final decisions and discussion should be public, I do not see a problem with private discussions.

If nothing else, appreciate the difficult position our lawmakers have in trying to make the right decisions.

-- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Oct 22, 2007, at 1:35 PM

Mr. Melson

Thank you our supporting our democracy. It is a shame that our leaders seem to think that they must meet in secret to protect us (the people) from our selves. I to believe that Tennessee is a great state and our forefathers had great vision in limiting the governments control of us by such laws as the sunshine law.

If we allow this one to fall to them which one will they go after next.

Mr. Mills made comment as to how private industry works. But I doubt that he would exclude the majority shareholders or plant owner from his meetings. So let us not forget that we the citizen voters own this country. We also need to remind our elected officials that they work for us, we put them there and if our interests are not there objective we will replace them with ones who understand that they represent all of us

-- Posted by VikingSupporter on Mon, Oct 22, 2007, at 8:16 PM

I am not talking about the main meetings in which individuals have to stand up and vote. I thought I made that clear. But I will say it again. I am talking about "think out of the box" meetings where solutions are thrown out without fear of criticism.

From experience, as majority stockholder and owner of past companies and as a manager within a company, I wanted my employees to feel free to innovate and think creatively. However, when I was in the room, I am told that the thoughts were more conservative. When the final decision came down, I still knew how everyone voted.

And yes, you can count on it that MANY discussions are held outside the boardroom or the investorâ*ż˝*ż˝s meetings. If they didnâ*ż˝*ż˝t, the company would stall from micromanagement.

If we did not trust the employees to be do their job, we would not hire them or we would terminate them, much as the voters should do with lawmakers. But once we elect them, we should allow them to do their job. Until or if they prove themselves untrustworthy, we fire them.

It is easy to say that one should not mind working under the glare of constant scrutiny and having words taken out of context, or being misunderstood by the way it is reported to the public. But when you are the one being misquoted or ridiculed for a slip of the tongue it feels lot different. That causes people to not speak up and keeps us from having creative solutions.

Of course, this is just the opinion of one misunderstood guy who has many slips of the tongue and/or slips on the keyboard. (That goodness for spellcheckers). LOL

-- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Oct 23, 2007, at 1:56 PM

VikingSupporter, I agree 100%!!!!

Your last few statements said it all..

-- Posted by jesuslovesevery1 on Tue, Oct 23, 2007, at 4:51 PM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.