Behind Closed Doors Meeting
There's an old saying, “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse." Tonight, Mayor Winston was determined to go into executive session to discuss potential cuts in personnel; despite the fact that it was not within the guidelines of the Open Meetings Act. But the entire meeting was out of order. Winston refused to adjourn the meeting due to a lack of a quorum. Instead, he waited over eight minutes for the other alderpersons to arrive in order to call the meeting in session.One thing that was evident tonight was the lack of knowledge possessed by our elected officials. They seemingly didn't know the guidelines for going into executive session.
According to the Mississippi Sunshine Laws, (4) A public body may hold an executive session pursuant to this section for one or more of the following reasons: (a) Transaction of business and discussion of personnel matters relating to the job performance, character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person holding a specific position. (b) Strategy sessions or negotiations with respect to prospective litigation, litigation or issuance of an appealable order when an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the litigating position of the public body. (c) Transaction of business and discussion regarding the report, development or course of action regarding security personnel, plans or devices. (d) Investigative proceedings by any public body regarding allegations of misconduct or violation of law. (e) Any body of the Legislature which is meeting on matters within the jurisdiction of such body. (f) Cases of extraordinary emergency which would pose immediate or irrevocable harm or damage to persons and/or property within the jurisdiction of such public body. (g) Transaction of business and discussion regarding the prospective purchase, sale or leasing of lands. (h) Discussions between a school board and individual students who attend a school within the jurisdiction of such school board or the parents or teachers of such students regarding problems of such students or their parents or teachers. (i) Transaction of business and discussion concerning the preparation of tests for admission to practice in recognized professions. (j) Transaction of business and discussions or negotiations regarding the location, relocation or expansion of a business or an industry. (k) Transaction of business and discussions regarding employment or job performance of a person in a specific position or termination of an employee holding a specific position. The exemption provided by this paragraph includes the right to enter into executive session concerning a line item in a budget which might affect the termination of an employee or employees. All other budget items shall be considered in open meetings and final budgetary adoption shall not be taken in executive session.
Winston refused to discuss the proposed cuts in an open meeting. It still seems like they're trying to put the cart before the horse. Once again I want to know how you're going to cut the budget without a proposed budget. But if It was all left up to Ben Winston, it would be like the lyrics of the old Charlie Rich song, "cause no one knows what goes on behind closed doors."