Friday, April 13, 2018

School Board exposed attempting to negotiate budget deal behind closed doors.

Back when I entered the Metro Council, every year the members of the Budget and Finance Committee would get together at an informal private meeting and develop the Council's alternative to the mayor's budget. These meetings were not advertised and no records were kept. Those not on the Budget and Finance Committee had no input as to the alternative budget and were presented with the choice of voting for the alternative budget or not. Not voting for the alternative would have had the effect of voting for the mayor's budget. This was exposed a couple times by the press and by the time I left the council the practice had stopped and budget deliberations were done in public. I still suspect that some side deals were made in the hall or by phone but I don't know that. I did not serve on the Budget and Finance Committee so was not a party the private negotiations.

Over the years, legislative bodies have been exposed making decisions in private and one would think most legislators would have gotten the message. It looks like the school board has not. The school board had a retreat planned for April 13 and 14 and the agenda sent to board members said the board planned to discuss the ongoing budget controversy. The meeting was not advertised and was at a location other than the normal location of school board meetings. News Channel Five learned of the planned meeting, reported on it and the meeting was canceled.

It looks like the board then tried to play games by rescheduling the meeting, again without proper notice. It clearly appears that the school board was trying to violate Tennessee's Open Meetings Act. I know that it is easier and less embarrassing to make deals in private. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. People can talk candidly when the press is not in the room and the cameras are not rolling. However, that is not an excuse for violating the law. In fact, the point of the law is that public business be conducted in public. Politics is bad enough when done in pubic; when conducted in secret it is dirtier. Sunshine is a good disinfectant.

Channel Five documents and explains what happened. To learn more follow this link. I commend Channel Five for exposing this attempt to violate the Sunshine law.

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