Open government is our right under law

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

The conference room at the Natchez City Hall was apparently a little more crowded that some apparently intended it to be on Monday.

Mississippi state law tends to be pretty clear about open government: &uot;All official meetings of any public body … are declared to be public meetings and shall be open to the public at all times unless declared an executive session.&uot;

But when the Natchez Board of Aldermen met earlier this week to discuss a controversial &uot;moratorium&uot; on the city’s sign ordinance, it’s pretty clear they didn’t all intend for the public or the media to be there.

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While some members of the public were contacted by aldermen &045;&045; and those members of the public contacted local media &045;&045; no official notice of the meeting was made.

In fact, Aldermen David Massey pointed out quite clearly in the meeting that he didn’t expect anyone else to be there.

To be fair, Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith, who said he wanted the meeting, told The Democrat when and where the meeting would be when we inquired. But he nor anyone else made any attempt to contact us in advance.

It never ceases to amaze us that elected officials, here or anywhere else, think it’s their right to meet behind closed doors in matters not pertaining to executive session &045;&045; which in Mississippi is pretty much limited to litigation and good name and character.

If you didn’t want your business &045;&045; i.e., the business of the city and its residents, taxpayers and voters &045;&045; to be known, why run for office?

To the mayor and board, here’s some advice: If all of you are in a room together, don’t be surprised if the public and the media show up. It’s our right, and it’s the law.