Ogdensburg City Council members are going back and forth about "confidential" information and making it public. It's a mine field for public officials buffeted by media who selectively want transparency and municipal attorneys who tend to want everything secret. Then there are administrators who want anything embarrassing kept on the down low and the labor unions who don't want the public to know how greedy they are when it comes to negotiations.
Executive sessions are always nettlesome as conversations easily stray. That certainly happened last year in our city when candid and conversational observations about a candidate were relayed to the candidate, contributing to rage. Ironically, the people making accusations about "leaks" are the most chatty, and remember, if you are leaking to a particular media, that media thinks its not a leak.
Then there is the issue of discussing the background of a particular corporation or individual as a ruse to mask policy discussion.
I'd be the first to say I would have handled executive sessions differently last year when there were so many agendas in the room, including my own.
The implied muzzle of executive session is often a problem. The back room talks on hiring a labor lawyer last year denied the public the chance to hear debate on the core issue.
Then there are "personnel" issues, routinely kept secret when its convenient but not so when it's not. Layer on that some politics and it's off to the races.
In the Maple City, they argue over updates from the City Manager. We got weekly email updates and no one made a fuss. They were mostly a "what's going on" in the departments and while not made public, I don't recall seeing anything that was particularly bothersome.
It's a balance. There does seem a need to be able to talk candidly, but don't ever put it in print and always play the game of only have two of five in the room. Then hold a second meeting with the other two, and a third meeting for the remaining one.
How's that for open government ?
Watertown Daily Times | Ogdensburg officials try to control information; two councilors balk