The desire of some members of the Tupelo City Council to hold a closed-door meeting to discuss a proposed bus transit system would violate Mississippi’s open meetings law – and besides, it’s not necessary.
Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan said after Tuesday’s regular work session – open to the public by law and attended by several residents interested in a transit system – that the council needed to sit down together without the transit study committee or other members of the public present and discuss it among themselves.
The topic, remember, is a proposed bus transit system.
Nothing about the issue warrants closed-door discussions.
The supporters of a transit system who attended Tuesday’s work session represented some of the potential ridership, which would include people with handicaps and disabilities whose capacity to drive is limited or forbidden. Some of the potential riders can’t afford a car or truck, and they’re looking for affordable transportation.
The open meetings law applies to any state, local, or county executive or administrative board, commission, authority, council, department, agency, bureau, or any other policy-making entity, or a committee which is supported wholly or in part by public funds or expends public funds, as well as any standing, interim or special committee of the Legislature.
The law leaves virtually no wiggle room, including so-called informal meetings and including lunch or dinner meetings at which a quorum is present. Work sessions like the one on Tuesday are open meetings under the law.
“Chance” meetings or “social gatherings” of members of a public body are not covered, but regular meetings of public officials at a local coffee shop, bar or other venue to discuss county or local business is an official meeting.
“Executive sessions” are allowed for only a few issues:
-Personnel matters relating to job performance, character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person holding a specific position;
-Prospective or actual litigation;
-Security personnel, plans or devices;
-Investigations concerning allegations of misconduct or violations of law;
-Extraordinary emergencies posing immediate or irrevocable harm to persons or property;
-The prospective purchase, sale or leasing of lands;
-The preparation of admission tests for recognized professions;
-The location, relocation or expansion of a business or industry;
-A line item in a budget which might affect termination of an employee or employees, although all other budget items must be considered in open meetings.
-The transit issue is about ridership, costs and routes – no legal reason to attempt a closed-door meeting.
NEMS Daily Journal