OUR OPINION: No excuse for commission's closed meeting
People learn from their mistakes, the saying goes. But at the Alerus Center commission, all that commissioners seem to have learned is to repeat those mistakes exactly the next time around. Two years after "executive committee" meetings set major...
People learn from their mistakes, the saying goes.
But at the Alerus Center commission, all that commissioners seem to have learned is to repeat those mistakes exactly the next time around.
Two years after "executive committee" meetings set major Alerus Center policies ...
Eight months after being told by City Attorney Howard Swanson that those meetings likely were illegal ...
Eight months as well after getting briefed by Swanson on North Dakota's Open Meetings Law ...
Six months after seeing an official Task Force convene to try to repair the commission's hammered credibility ...
And three months after reading the Task Force's final report, which stressed the need for open, transparent and publicly announced meetings ...
The commissioners chose to talk business at what appears to be a blatantly illegal closed meeting.
Commission members should be ashamed. The Herald's editorial board admires the members and respects the work they do. But it gets hard to maintain that support when commissioners ignore pleas for good governance, which have called over and over again for open and transparent meetings.
The commissioners called their closed meeting an "executive session," but that doesn't wash. It is against North Dakota law to just say "executive session" and usher visitors out, no matter what gets discussed after the doors are closed.
As Herald staff writer Tu-Uyen Tran has patiently -- and repeatedly -- explained, all such meetings and executive sessions must be announced in advance. The announcement must state the general subject matter of the executive session.
And that subject must conform to state law, which drastically limits the topics officials can discuss in closed meetings.
The commissioners apparently ignored all of these considerations. They didn't announce the executive session in advance, they didn't declare the subject in the announcement and that subject didn't come close to justifying the closed doors.
Sorry, commissioners, but when you want to talk about an audit, you have to do so in public, even when the audit carries bad news.
After the events of last year, it strains credulity for commission members to claim ignorance of the law. And not just last year: North Dakota's sunshine laws have been the subject of hundreds of news stories for more than 20 years. The State Board of Higher Education famously had to re-enact a meeting it had improperly closed.
Yet the banker, lawyer, City Council member and others on the commission somehow missed all this?
Some aspects of Alerus Center operations are only partially under the commission's control. Concerts are uncertain, for example. The revenue line for 2011 is a guess.
But the commission's own meetings are 100 percent within commissioners' control. Commissioners must start fully embracing their open-meeting obligations, or they'll see whatever public support they have left melt like Dippin' Dots dropped near a concession stand.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald