Will little fanfare, the Louisiana City Council dropped an agenda item last week that I think put them one large step toward transparency.
The board had previously agreed to drop a catch-all provision from their agenda that allowed them three different reasons to go into closed executive sessions at any time. Those lessons were litigation, real estate transactions and personnel.
The action last week was the end of a long discussion on whether the board should be using the blanket excuses. The board was warned two years ago by the Press-Journal and others that the blanket listing of reasons to go into closed session was a violation of the Sunshine Law, Missouri’s open meetings and record act.
In May 2011, the Missouri attorney general’s office was alerted to the situation and told the council to stop it. They finally have.
To begin with, the attorney general noted that the blanket listing was not specific enough to let the public know what was going on inside the closed meetings. Specific reasons for going into closed session are required by the Sunshine Law.
Secondly, the blanket listings allowed the board to go behind closed doors whenever it wanted without telling taxpayers what they were talking about. If the board strayed off-topic, who would know?
While it may not seem like much, the decision to throw the item off the council’s agenda is a broad step for the community and open government. It’s nice to see the city trying to get into compliance with the Sunshine Law rather than trying to skirt it, as they have in the past.