Advice boards get is sometimes incorrect

By PAT BROWN,

B oards who think they are operating within the parameters of the law when they exercise the option to go into executive session could be in for a rude awakening.

  They are under the false assumption that they can use the term “personnel” to go into session and discuss issues “behind closed doors.”  However, these exemptions are discretionary, not mandatory. 

In addition reasons are supposed to be much more specific than the term “personnel.”  The Mississippi Code that explains this is 25-41-7, which says an entity can go into session to discuss “employment or performance of a specific person in a specific job or termination of a specific employee holding a specific position.”  The code states that  independent contractors are not exempt either. 

  In our opinion, the reason these boards choose to close these meetings is to avoid discussing grievances in public.  Our question is this:  If these issues are funded with taxpayer money, why would the public not have a right to know the details of decisions and why they are made? 

  The lawyers will say “Well, we don’t want to say something that could lead to a possible law suit.”  Using that premise you could be sued for any decision, or any item could be construed a “personnel issue,”  neither of which is covered under rules for executive session. 

The term “litigation” also does not count as a reason to go into executive session unless it is specific litigation or prospective litigation which implies that it is likely to occur within a foreseeable time in the future. 

Security plans and devices are grounds for executive session. 

Other exemptions include:

  Investigative proceedings of a public body where allegations of misconduct or violations of the law are grounds for executive session; 

Any body of the Legislature meeting on matters of their jurisdiction;

Cases of extraordinary emergency which may cause harm to persons or  property over which a board may have jurisdiction; 

Transactions of business for discussion of the purchase, sale or lease of lands;

  Discussion of a school board with individual students or parents or teachers to which the problems are related may be held in closed session;

  Transaction of business regarding testing and questions is allowed;

Business regarding expansion of a business or industry may be exempt;

Hearings of the State Tax Commission and the hearing officers. 

The public has a right to know why decisions are made with regard to public office.   You can watch candidates sing  a different tune until they get elected.  Once they become members of these boards, they join the good ole boy network and want to start having closed meetings.  Why you may ask?

The only reason we see is to empower themselves at the expense of others.