Executive session cloaks the truth

Published 12:03 am Thursday, February 16, 2012

On Feb. 2 the Natchez Board of Aldermen seemed to cast new light into the Open Meeting’s Laws. They voted unanimously to hold an open discussion of the original third amendment of the casino contract, as it was a matter of public record. Now 13 days, three meeting days later, with five hours of those being in executive session (closed to the public) and the third revision of the third amendment, it seems the open meetings breath of fresh air was only an empty promise.

It’s as if it was just a show. It appears the board is not as citizen-friendly as thought, and the cloak of executive session thrown over all their actions has clouded the issue. Open meetings keep politicians honest and create a well-informed community. Natchez has good reason to question and have concerns about its politicians.

Today five of our Aldermen voted to accept what had been an ongoing contract issue with the Roth Hill casino project. All six aldermen in past weeks stated either no change to the existing contract or seriously questioned the content of proposed changes. Now the citizens of Natchez are left in the dark after five hours of executive session meetings with limited information and no input from its citizens. Even the questions entered into the record Tuesday where not answered today.

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As an outcome of today’s vote, citizens will need to hold our board of aldermen to the 2012 budget.

One of the changes voted in includes “the dangling carrot” from casino interest of commencing with monthly rent payments of $50,000 on March 1 in lieu of a lump sum payment of $1 million when the casino opens in December or January. This pre-payment of half of the $1 million should be saved and not immediately spent on increases to ongoing and/or new projects. It should either be held so we won’t have to take out an end-of-year loan in December/January and/or retire some of the current existing debt. We as citizens need to hold them to the existing budget, and if the monies ($500,000) are used properly, maybe some good will come from this sad day.


Paris B. Winn

Natchez resident