Finance meetings to be more public, recorded

Published 12:50 am Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to correct an error. The finance meetings will be recorded using audio equipment, not video.

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday night to conduct its finance committee meetings in a more public manner.

Finance committee meetings have traditionally taken place without the cameras in a conference room before the official board meeting.

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Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard made a motion to have finance committee meetings in the main room at the Natchez City Council Chambers and to allow audio recording of the sessions.

“If we have this room with the equipment, it’s better to keep the public informed and it will keep the minutes,” Dillard said.

Dillard said he understood the aldermen had been conducting their finance meetings off camera in the back room for years — before many of the board members or Mayor Jake Middleton were elected — but he thought the board should make the change.

The board agreed by quickly passing Dillard’s motion unanimously without further discussion.

He said conducting the meetings that way would allow the board to announce why it ever needed to enter executive session to the public and for the record.

After the board’s finance committee meeting before Tuesday’s meeting, the board entered executive session just before the 6 p.m. meeting was set to begin.

Students from Robert Lewis Middle School and their families who attended the meeting to be recognized for high-test scores were among the audience at the meeting who waited approximately 30 minutes for the board to come out of executive session.

The mayor announced the board was entering executive session to discuss personnel issues involving a 2-day suspension of an employee of the fire department.

In other business:

Attorneys for the Natchez-Adams Recreation Commission addressed the board about the city’s memorandum of understanding regarding the property slated for a recreation facility, known as the bean field.

He said Natchez Trace made an addendum to the original contract signed in 2002 that removed a 60-day termination clause.

The new article VII excludes mention of a short-notice cancellation clause and states, “Only a written instrument executed by both parties may modify this Memorandum of Understanding … Should differences arise, both parties agree to try to resolve differences amicably.”

Dillard asked attorney Walter Brown if a “memorandum of understanding” can function as a contract.

Brown said the memorandum of understanding is a contract, and it has always been the type of legal document with which the National Parks Service and Natchez Trace has operated.

“(Natchez) has never had anything but a memorandum of understanding from The Natchez Trace Parkway,” Brown said.

“They can only terminate if we breach original contract.”