Thursday, November 5, 2009

The keeping 'em honest beat goes on

Today we learned the Lewiston City Council met to interview a candidate for the job of city administrator the only problem is they did it illegally, without giving due notice to the public as required under Maine law. I had a nice conversation with the city's attorney today, who couldn't say officially whether he had been informed of the meeting or not. Two guesses.

If you are going to do something illegal would you tell your lawyer about it first?

The attorney said it wasn't always easy doing the public's business in public and he's right about that. I suggested that while it isn't always pretty to hash things out in the public eye the end result is usually a more understanding public.

I believe pretty strongly that most elected officials really do want to do the right thing and are in it for the best interests of those they serve.

But if you close the doors during the decision-making process, why you made the decision you did becomes less clear and subject to far greater criticism.

The old saying about watching laws and ordinances being made being akin to watching sausage being made -- it ain't pretty -- may be true but in the end. But when we can see how something is actually made we are more likely to understand the decision.

Open meetings protect our government from corruption and graft.

Of course the city official who set up the meeting claims he doesn't know he had to notice the meeting.

The ultimate responsibility rests on the shoulders of the elected officials including the mayor and council president, all of whom have been informed, at length, of the laws governing public meetings in Maine.

Bottom line -- open access to our government is a hallmark of American democracy and those who attempt to block, keep or remove the public from the process are damaging to democracy everywhere. Meanwhile, media turning a blind eye to it, are equally damaging to the process of open government.

That's the big news day for today.

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