Alabama editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Jan. 27

The Daily Home, Talladega, Ala., on teeth are needed in Open Meetings Act:

The excuses and apologies for violating the state’s Open Meetings Act of 2005 are all too familiar.

They didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. They thought they were abiding by the law. It won’t happen again.

And the shoot-the-messenger resentment when we report on it is also a familiar refrain. The newspaper is just digging up dirt; we’re barking up the wrong tree_as if reporters aren’t supposed to dig, and watchdogs aren’t supposed to bark.

The latest controversy over the Act in our coverage area occurred recently in Riverside. In case you missed it, the city council held public interviews of candidates for the city clerk’s position there_as they should_but when they decided to vote unanimously to hire one of those candidates, they did so with no discussion—at least no public discussion—and strangely enough, the candidate they chose was the only one attending the meeting. The public was shut out of hearing the deliberations involved in choosing someone for one of the most important positions in municipal government. Emails between elected officials were released to this newspaper in response to a public information request.

We’re not questioning their selection, and we’re not suggesting there were any backroom deals. It simply appears to be another case of a public body skirting the openness we believe is needed for self-government to work at its best.

The state’s Act specifically forbids the use of electronic communications to circumvent the law, and that appears to be what happened. That part of the law is clear, but the law is flawed in other ways.

We appreciate those who offer themselves for public service. Most appointed boards do not pay a salary at all, and people elected to most councils and commissions_even state legislators_are paid modest amounts for the time and energy they are expected to devote to their jobs. Yet our system of government could not function without them.

But they need to remember that it is the people’s government, not theirs, and the people have a right to know how and why decisions are made.

The bill working its way through the legislature, if its teeth aren’t pulled before passage, should help serve as a reminder.



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