Public deserves to be included

Published 12:02 am Friday, August 4, 2017

Natchez aldermen met privately this week with members of the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission to discuss details of an agreement between the two entities.

By current Mississippi law, the meeting was perfectly legal because the number of aldermen in the meeting did not qualify as a quorum of the board.

Aldermen have a long history of meeting behind closed doors when inviting the public in would cause no harm to the matter being discussed. Wednesday’s meeting was no exception.

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The subject being discussed is extremely important to the dozens and dozens of residents who work directly in the local tourism industry and the thousands more who are impacted by tourism.

Having discussions behind closed doors adds to the impression that leaders believe the public does not have the right to know how and why decisions are made.

That the City of Natchez and the NCPC have been operating without an agreement since 2012 should underscore the need for transparency and public involvement. Clearly, at least in the past, city leaders and tourism leaders have struggled to clearly communicate, particularly about matters of controlling employees and money.

Some aldermen believe they, not the NCPC members should have ultimate say over both finances and hiring and firing of tourism department employees. Given the city’s poor track record in fiscal matters — and personnel matters as well — we urge aldermen to let the professionals on the NCPC do the tasks for which they were appointed.

But mostly we want both groups to insist on public discussions going forward.