Open Meetings editorial

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 8, 2011

Open meetings law taken seriously here

Closed doors are not something this newspaper takes lightly.

We attempt to report the news of Panola County fairly and accurately. We try to attend as many public meetings as possible to report on decisions made by the people elected to office or selected for public boards and bodies.

Nobody else in Panola County does this on a regular basis and we do not take our readers for granted just because we are often the only ones in the meeting room besides board members and staff. We represent them, our readers, and offer those with differing opinions an outlet to express themselves through Letters to the Editor or comments on our website.

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When public boards decide to close us out, they close out thousands of subscribers and readers who vote and pay taxes for and to the entities that these boards are supposed to represent.

Open meetings laws came about after decades of good ole’ boys meeting in smoke-filled board rooms with closed doors with only the politically elite privy to decisions made within.

The Watergate era of government in the 1970s slowly made that style of government unstylish with Open Meetings laws gradually taking hold afterward.

Let it be known that there are rare occasions when this newspaper believes the doors should be closed. Those instances are liberally covered in the Open Meetings Law.

Some of our local boards take extra precaution to insure that the spirit of the Open Meetings Laws are carried out and work with our staff to ensure that what can be reported is reported and we appreciate that.

But in other instances, routine closed door sessions appear on the agenda to discuss broad topics that may or may not fall into legitimate reasons for closed door sessions leading one’s mind to wonder if board members are shielding the “why” of controversial decisions behind the Open Meetings Law’s executive session law.

Closed doors, although sometimes warranted, breed distrust and suspicion on a public setting.

We think our job is serious. We think the public’s business is serious, too.