My grandma used to tell me that it wasn't wise to point out another's faults because inevitably it just called even more attention to your own faults. Well, that lesson might be something one public body in this state should take to heart.
A newspaper called today to report the local city council was angered at them over something that ran in the paper. The reporter had requested minutes of the last meeting, and when she got them, they included the minutes of both an open and a closed meeting. The body's custodian gave her the minutes and she published them in the paper. Now the council is angry at her for running those closed meeting minutes because she was disclosing something they didn't want local residents to know about. They wanted to hold that discussion in private.
Well, first I assured her that whenever a public body releases material to you, there's no reason for you to feel guilty about publishing it. But, then, curious, I asked her what exception was used to close the meeting? The minutes don't cite an exception, she said. Uh, oh, I thought, violation No. 1.
So, I questioned, just what did they discuss in this closed meeting? They talked about awarding city grants to projects, she responded.
Now, I see no reason to suppose those grants were being awarded on competitive bids. I don't see any indication these were negotiated contracts or sealed proposals. So, I am at a loss under what exception this city thought it had a right to have this discussion of where to award city grants in a closed meeting. Just because "you don't want the public to know about" who is getting a city grant doesn't fall into any of the exceptions in my copy of Section 610.021.
Perhaps it WOULD have been wise if the city had kept these closed meeting minutes closed. Perhaps it might be wise not to publicly advertise you've blatantly broken the sunshine law.
A litle sunshine can be a good thing, sometimes....