On February 21, I emailed the mayor a request for the minutes of last month’s city council and ask that he forward it to the city clerk, since she had not responded to another FOI request I made 3 days previous. He forwarded her my request, and she responded the next day, (copying the city attorney, peculiarly), saying she did not receive my original request, but my second request was not able to be filled right away.
From her email, which is public record:
You subsequently requested a copy of the minutes of the February 14 council meeting. I have not yet prepared a draft of the minutes, but will do so in advance of the March 8 agenda meeting as time permits. The Council will take action to approve or amend/adopt the minutes at its regular March meeting on March 13.
The draft minutes/working minutes will be adequate. I assume you do have a draft that you took during the meeting or do you make the draft from a recording? I am not familiar with this process. Please send me whatever you can as soon as possible.
I received no answer to that email.
Well, today is March 8th and, you guessed it: I have not received any minutes.
I have delayed writing this post out of respect for the mayor, but good grief. It’s been nearly three weeks now.
Think about this folks: we live in a city in which the city council meetings are not recorded, the city budget is not published online, and we apparently cannot easily access the minutes of what is happening in our own city council’s meetings!
Transparency isn’t difficult, unless there is something to hide, but it is essential. Publishing these minutes or at least making them easily accessible should be the bare minimum of what this city is doing to remain accountable to the people.
On a related note, last week I received an email from my alderman and former opponent for city council in 2010, Mary Ann Arnett:
Nicholas, I assure you that the current council is transparent and nothing improper is going on.
I am not sure where this comment came from, seeing I had not alleged any wrongdoing or impropriety. Perhaps she knows something we don’t?
Kind of reminded me of when people tell me they’re “honest to a fault” (a phrase she also used during the campaign), when you’ve never accused them of being dishonest. That’s usually a good sign that they cannot be trusted–they know they’re dishonest, so they have to overcompensate for it by convincing you otherwise. I responded and told her we must have very different definitions of the word ‘transparent.’
I don’t really suspect the city is hiding anything (in this particular situation), but it’s a matter of principle at this point. Why can’t an average citizen have a record of what is happening in their own little hometown of 20,000 people?
I’d like to find out what is going on. Release the minutes.