One of the Sisyphian tasks of journalists is fighting the constant and pervasive use and abuse of "executive session" by elected bodies. I think I have had a pretty good record on openess over the years, but hardly a perfect one.
At both City Council and the Watertown Trust, I have been in on executive sessions that are dubious under the states Open Meetings Law.
Sometimes it's mission creep. You get in the back room and the conversation meanders or an issue has different nuances, some of which are sensitive, some are not. Sometimes it's just not an issue that should have been in executive session at all.
On most occasions, use of the back room is justified.
The reasons for most sessions is to avoid embarassment....for somebody. Sometimes it really is that public disclosure would have a deleterious effect on something. One downside on the sessions is the presumption of secrecy. Once a body votes to go into session, you are more or less bound to the pact even though whats being talked about should or could be public. Sometimes its hard to remember what you agreed to keep quiet about and sometimes you leave such a session with reservations.
It's not that the people involved are evil...it's just they take the path of least resistance which some times involves avoiding doing things they know will be criticised. I've been in close range to one of those recently.
The essence of public bodies is to be open. However, there is usually little interest in what we do, from the public or the media. Most public sector meetings get little or no coverage and there is great temptation to think of ourselves as "executives" who should be doing things in an executive manner...aka in private.
Anyway, this is one of those back and forths that will always exist.
Watertown Daily Times School officials should open the rule book before closing a meeting