Open Public Meetings - What is the law?
The following text is taken from the Reporters Handbook,
guide to the current law governing public records and public meetings - please
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Restore requested an opinion from the McGimpsey & Cafferty law firm regarding the city council's use of "contract negotiation" as reason for holding a meeting with Asbury Partners, its attorneys, several investors and colleagues of Asbury Partners and 3 council members, without the benefit of the city's redevelopment counsel James Aaron in attendance, in executive session on July 15, 2004. We also referenced the practice on numerous occasions in the past. A lawyer for the firm, Arlene Turinchak, told us that, judging from the agenda given the public and the longer agenda, she could find no justification for invoking the 'contract negotiation' provision of the law. The agendas, she said, appeared to her to be matters of "planning and scheduling." Plans with a developer should be open to the public."
Restore presented this information at the public council meeting on July 21 and City Attorney, Fred Ruffetto, told us he makes the decisions on executive session on the basis of the agenda items. Mr Ruffetto offered to speak directly with Mr. Cafferty on the matter. During the public comment segment of the meeting, Restore asked Mr Ruffetto to explain how the public's interests were better served by the meeting being held in executive session. He answered that sensitive negotiations can sometimes achieve better results, and that a "chilling effect" can arise when such negotiations are subject to public exposure.
Restore intends to seek legal advice on how to enforce the law in this matter, and as it applies to previous meetings. Your comments: email us.