The question of what constitutes a violation of the sunshine law rears it's ugly head again with the disclosure of another secret meeting of the Bradley County School Board and a similar gathering of the County Commission. Local officials meeting in private to discuss public business is not a new phenomenon in Bradley County - it has been going on for decades, but in the last few years abuses seem to have increased. It is difficult to gauge the extent of the violations because a meeting wouldn't be secret if it were common knowledge but occasionally word leaks out. The problem seems to stem from lack of oversight and prosecution by the District Attorney's Office coupled with erroneous advice from board attorneys. Without any fear of prosecution, abuses will continue. County School Board attorney Gerald Kirksey sanctioned secret meetings during the Walker Valley construction controversy under the guise of attorney/client privilege, which almost cost the taxpayer millions in cost overruns - To our knowledge the violations were never investigated and continue. The board still hold a closed and unrecorded pre-meeting meeting before each public appearance. School Board member Steve Bivens, in a statement thumbing his nose at the law believes it is perfectly OK to hold private sessions- "I've been in government a long, long time" "What we did as a board did not break the Sunshine Law. It is not inappropriate for commissions and boards to meet and discuss things. It's done all the time." (Cleveland Daily banner, April 27 2003.) Tennessee code doesn't back up his assumption but does in fact state the opposite. Bivens, a Nashville lobbyist representing some large local companies and the City of Cleveland should know better. His statement could reasonably be considered an admission of guilt.
Do you think public officials should meet in private?
Do you think Bivens should be summoned before a Grand Jury to answer for his admission? Do you think the District Attorney should investigate and prosecute Sunshine Law violations. What do you think?
The Bradley News Weekly's continual griping about Charter Communications service..... Enough already!!! What do you think?
The terrible Nashville twins Bunch and Miller, still haven't made good on their threat to wipe out free newspapers in Bradley County or had the courage to admit to a silly mistake. Maybe they plan to sneak the legislation through while no one is watching... that is of course if they are there long enough.
What do you think?