"Council should keep discussions on city manager in the open" by: Mike Reddell

   Y’all know I don’t ever think highly of executive sessions, or more appropriately, elected officials talking behind closed doors.
   As always, I’m under no illusion that carping about tax-supported government discussions in private achieves any notable change.
   So, I’ve decided to call out incredible examples of secrecy.
   And, for starters, city council outdid itself at its July 11 meeting.
   Amid the transition from the old to the new city manager system, council’s meeting agenda include two open session items on timelines on plans for the interim city manager hiring and the mayor’s compensation and for hiring a permanent city manager.
   But that’s not what city council did. Instead, it pulled both of those agenda items behind closed doors – to be discussed along with three other items that were listed for executive session. 
   Council emerged from its private session to empty council chambers, since no one who attended the regular meeting wanted to wait out another long executive session.
   Except this time council did act in open session, but only on the previously open meeting agenda item on the mayor’s compensation.
   I don’t have a beef with what council approved. That included extending Mayor Robert Nelson’s $83,000 salary for three months after an interim city manager is hired, along with other compensation.
   I have a real problem because I can’t see where any of it should have been withheld from a public discussion, which would have helped the public better understand the challenges of switching over to the city manager system.
   Indeed, most of those numbers had been discussed before, but council could have put that information in better context for the public.
   But we’ll never know what was discussed on those previously public items because the Texas open meeting law – a misnomer here – dictates that nothing said in executive session can be discussed in the open.
   Leading to the May 4 city election when voters approved the mayor-council/city manager form of government, transparency was a frequently used term used by council members to explain the transformation.
   Anything discussed behind closed doors isn’t transparent. 
   This isn’t a good look for council. 
   We have a council with two new members and we’re going through a historic change in city hall government.
   An executive session loaded with five items is hardly a good start.
   The Sentinel found itself in a recent skirmish about online emergency notifications.
   The alarm to us was a reference at the bottom of an online notification from the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) about local efforts to monitor hurricane/tropic storm Barry in Louisiana.
   The Facebook post reminded online viewers to follow EOC, LEPC and local radio during emergencies.
   OK, I get that. But the county’s three newspapers have at least 21,000 Facebook followers among us. 
   EOC, as of Tuesday, has 1,175 FB followers.
   In an emergency every possible medium should be used to inform the public.
   Well, when we addressed EOC about our concerns in a private message, our suggestions and concerns were translated into a personal attack on them. 
   Even the word “hate” was used by them to describe our concerns.
   No matter, the Sentinel will continue to do its job in sharing important notifications during emergencies. 

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