City Commission to hold 31-Hour Special Meeting at Henry Horton State Park

Here’s the public notice:

Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 6‐20‐208, City Manager Randy Robertson hereby gives written notice that a Special Meeting of the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners will be held on January 25, 2008 – 9:00 a.m. thru January 26, 2008 at 4:00 p.m., at Henry Horton State Park, 4358 Nashville Highway, Chapel Hill, TN. This is a Strategic Planning session for the Mayor, City Commission and City staff. Items that will be discussed are departmental updates, the budget, long‐range plans, a comprehensive review of city services and other city related business. The public is invited to attend.

which can also be found on the city web site.

“The public is invited to attend”, but its going to be inconvenient (to say the least) for Mt. Juliet citizens to know what goes on at this two-day meeting. This may technically meet the requirements of the open meetings law, but it sure violates the spirit.

Wonder if any member of the press will actually attend and report on what goes on at this two-day retreat? Wonder if the city will release a schedule of what meetings/presentations are actually going to be held?

Update: It was pointed out to us that there is a City ordinance from 2000 that requires that “A video tape recording shall be made of each regular and special meeting of the City Commission.” 31 hours of video tape is going to make for an interesting logistical exercise.

I’m sure the Mayor, Commissioners, and City Manager are planning on video taping the entire meeting, aren’t they?

-Publius

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6 Comments

Filed under Open Meetings Law

6 responses to “City Commission to hold 31-Hour Special Meeting at Henry Horton State Park

  1. Pingback: City Commission 31 Hour Three Stooges Marathon « Radio Free Mt. Juliet

  2. Butch Huber

    Publius,

    I am not sure this does meet the requirements for public meetings. I haven’t taken the time “yet” to look into this matter in detail, but, a reasonable person would say that this is a violation of the open meetings law.

    Here is why I take the position that I take. This is being developed like a corporate retreat, however, this is not a corporate retreat, this is a public meeting. If the logic is used that the public is welcome and therefore the meeting is legal, then by the same logic they could hold this meeting in Hawaii or Hong Kong as long as the post the public notice and invite the public. If the government is interested in paying my expenses to travel to Hawaii or Hong Kong, so that I may attend such a meeting, as well as the expenses of every other citizen that would like to attend, then I guess it would be okay to hold the meeting in Hawaii or Hong Kong. Obviously, my point is that if the city makes the meeting times and locations unreasonably difficult for citizens to attend, they are essentially negating the intent of the open meetings laws.

    The meeting is being posted as starting on January 25th at 9 am and ending on January 26th at 4 pm. This means that we are talking about a potential marathon meeting lasting 31 hours. Am I to believe that the commissioners, city manager, and department heads of the city government are going to drive all the way to Chapel Hill Tennessee, then conduct a 31 hour marathon meeting, and then drive back to Mt. Juliet without sleeping? The drive there and back will take close to an hour and a half each way, so that would put the meeting plus driving time at about 34 hours. If that is what they are going to do it is irresponsible. Nobody should be on the road after being up for over thirty hours straight. Now, if they are booking rooms someplace, or there are rooms at this state park, (Rather than driving there, holding the meeting, and then driving back.) then in theory, this meeting could be held anywhere in the world and it would be of the same effect, different dollar amounts, but the same effect.

    The open meetings laws of this state are in place so that the citizens, and the media, are able to keep an eye on our public officials. We are not supposed to have to invest our money to travel to a meeting in order to attend. Cost is always relative, but there are accepted positions for times and places. For instance, it would be reasonable for the city to hold the meeting at city hall. Citizens would have to invest gas money to travel to city hall. It is reasonable to hold the meeting at any location within the city limits for that matter, for this is where the government is located. But it should be held that to hold the meeting outside the city limits is unreasonable due to the additional burden on the citizen to attend. Otherwise, the sunshine laws of the state are rendered useless. If the city is allowed to get away with this trick, they could then use this as a precedence to conduct their next meeting at Disney World or Jackson Hole, or perhaps Paris. If there are no parameters placed on the conduct of public meetings, then the meetings can be held anywhere and at any cost. If the city is going to take an annual boondoggle trip to some exotic getaway on the pretense that they are conducting “city business” perhaps I will rethink my unwillingness to run for local public office. I could use the vacation! I would then vote for the first trip, ahem, “Meeting” to be held in Monaco, I have been there before and I can’t wait to go back, it is simply wonderful! We could hold our meetings at the Prince’s pool in the Marina. I can’t think of a more productive place to hold a meeting in all the world! And of course, we will invite all of you to attend so we don’t violate the sunshine laws. It shouldn’t cost you more than $6,000 to attend…small price to pay to keep your rights!

    Unless a citizen is willing to stay up for 34 to 36 hours straight, forfeit their time, take a day off of work, and sit through 31 hours of public meeting, there won’t be anyone there to hold them to account for what they are doing. Sure, you can say that all the meeting has to be video taped, but what is to stop them from taking breaks, turning off the video recorder or stepping outside, and conducting business anyway they want to conduct business if there are no citizens around to watch over them? Heck, they don’t follow the law when we are around, I can only imagine what it will be like at that meeting when we aren’t around.

    This may be a well intended meeting on the city manager’s part, but it is ill advised. The city government should not give any appearance of impropriety, especially after the escapades that we have seen over the past year or so.

    I think that a judge should be contacted prior to this meeting to verify that they are within their powers to hold such a meeting and to define what is acceptable and what is unacceptable for such a meeting.

    If the city holds this meeting, in the way it appears they are intending, and someone has a wreck in a car because they fell asleep at the wheel, the city will be vulnerable for a major lawsuit. If they are intending to hold these meetings other than marathon style, and they are providing rooms, then in order for a citizen to attend the meetings in similar fashion as those conducting the meeting, the citizen would have to expend their own funds to attend. Doesn’t that seem strange to you?

    If the city holds such a meeting, and they take a break for lunch, the public must be invited to lunch with the city commissioners or they have to adjourn the meeting for lunch. If they adjourn the meeting for lunch, the commissioners cannot meet at the same location for lunch and discuss city business in any form or fashion or they will be in violation of the sunshine laws. If they don’t adjourn the meeting, and instead, move the location of the meeting to a restaurant, the restaurant must be able to accommodate any citizen who wishes to attend the luncheon, or the city commission will be in violation of the sunshine laws. If they move the meeting to a restaurant, they must also list that restaurant as a public meeting place with times and locations, and list the matters to be discussed during that luncheon, as a public notice, or they will be in violation of the sunshine laws.

    Further, if they hold this marathon meeting, and it is later determined that they violated the sunshine laws, it could reasonably be held that everything that is decided at the meeting is null and void. So, if they later pass an ordinance on a matter that was discussed during their marathon meeting, and it is determined that they violated the sunshine laws during the conduct of that meeting, their decision is null and void and of no effect. Then, if they try to redo the discussion on the matter in a properly called public meeting, and as a result, they take further action on a matter, and that action causes harm to another, the possibility exists for the city to be sued in a court of law.

    I don’t think this whole matter was well thought through….or was it? If I wanted an opportunity to conduct backroom politics, what a way to do it!

    I don’t know whose idea this really was, the city manager, or Linda Elam, or the other commissioners. The city manager could “say” that it was his idea, but we have seen the way things work at city hall. We may never know exactly why this is being done in the way that it is being done, but based on what I have seen in the past, there is no reason for me to trust that this meeting will be conducted without violating the sunshine laws. This commission has never cared about following the law, so why would they start now?

    I have actually seen few instances where the mayor and commissioners have gotten together for a meeting where I didn’t discover they had violated the sunshine laws of this state. Nobody is going to convince me that they can be trusted to conduct such a meeting as this one and not violate the sunshine laws of the state.

    Neat trick, but I am certainly not convinced that what they are trying to do is legal, and beyond that, I am certain that it is in poor taste. They are in essence eliminating the citizen from civil operations of government, which is always a bad idea and is always lacking of class. They are thumbing their noses at the public. There is no reason such a meeting couldn’t be set up locally. I know the premise of getting away from it all for meetings like this, and it probably is a good idea for private corporations, but for public bodies it isn’t a wise move.

    There is a major difference between public business and private business. We have laws for public bodies that must be observed in order to maintain public trust. How will we ever be able to trust anything that is done from now on if they are going to scurry off to some getaway to conduct business?

    They will be hearing about this one for a long time, I promise.

    Butch

  3. Common Sense

    OK Butch,

    When was the last time you ever heard of a meeting that went 31 hours straight? If you used a little of the time to that you spent writing another manifesto to do a little research, you would know that there is an inn at the park, and a “reasonable” person could assume that they will be breaking on Friday afternoon and resume on Saturday morning. When I got to that point of your short story, I went ahead and stopped reading and skipped through most of it until I saw the words Hawaii and Hong Kong. Again, “reasonable” would be something you should look into.

    Here is the link for the park and the rooms are “reasonably” priced:
    http://www.state.tn.us/environment/parks/HenryHorton/lodging/

    It is 65.22 miles from city hall to the park according to mapquest.

    If you really want to complain about something, maybe you should go with the “We are a million in the hole and they want to rent rooms for everyone” or the always popular line of “Elam ______” and you fill it in from there.

    Not sure why you are upset, after all, they may be going down there to budget for your fallout shelter! If it is reasonable, maybe they will put it on some of Feener’s property!

  4. Butch Huber

    Common Sense,

    I wasn’t talking to you.

    Butch

    Short enough?

  5. Common Sense

    Butch,

    I wouldn’t expect you to take Common Sense advice.

  6. Man of the People!

    I am already laughing to myself imagining what that videotape will contain!

    Shouldn’t they “Buy Wilson County First” and meet at the new Hampton Inn?

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