Keeping Watch on Henry County Politics, Sunshine Quiz
Henry County Courthouse — 3/23/12
The scenario described yesterday and provided below this post is a matter of record of the 3/22/12 session of the Henry County Supervisors available to members of the public requesting it in the form of an audio/visual DVD.
First it is important to note that county employees and county residents in general are not responsible for structuring the meetings of the Henry County Supervisors. Please feel free and confident to stop in at any time and wait for a lull in the action between scheduled agenda items and make a request to address the supervisors. While You cannot disrupt an active discussion You can raise your hand and possibly participate in any discussion at the discretion of the Chair who has the responsibility for maintaining the orderly flow of county business.
It is particularly appropriate to air concerns and make a request to be placed on the agenda of the next meeting during public comments that are typically held for 15 minutes (9:00 - 9:15) at the beginning of each meeting. You can also call the auditor's office to request being placed on the agenda of an upcoming meeting. Persons who drop in to express concerns in the public comments segment need to understand that the supervisors will be glad to listen for a few minutes but for the supervisors to enter into a discussion of the topic that you present requires that it is placed on the agenda of an upcoming meeting. This allows the rest of Henry County to know what is being discussed by the supervisors. Both the public and the press are invited to be in attendance during the public comments segment and concerns expressed therein will be contained in the minutes.
So what should have happened on 3/22? Unless it is an bona fide emergency the request to address the supervisors should have been honored and placed on the published agenda of the next meeting.
Making last minute additions to "other county business" is highly questionable as if affords the public no opportunity to know in advance what is being discussed. However on the 22nd the appropriateness of doing so becomes moot when the meeting is adjourned and the press leaves before the employee returns.
When the employee does arrive after the meeting has been adjourned and begins to discuss his concerns with only one supervisor in the room, all is well. But when the second supervisor enters the room there is now a quorum and when that supervisor enters into the discussion - a meeting is being held - without any agenda being published and without minutes being taken and without the press and the public in general having received an invitation to attend.
(A complaint of a Henry County Conservation Board member that a Conservation Board's meeting agenda did not prepare two board members or the public for an upcoming vote on a sensitive question is in significant part what lured me into county politics. Until something You value is at risk who cares how county business is conducted? The problem is if You wait to care until what You value is at risk it may be too late to protect it.)
Can You pick out any likely violation(s)? A county employee stops by to update the Supervisors on issues relevant to the employee's job responsibilities that involve public safety. Noting that the employee's briefing of the supervisors was not on the published agenda the Chairman of the Board recommends that they make room for him on the agenda later in the morning under "other county business". Upon completion of all agenda items except "other county business" the supervisors note that the employee has not returned to the courthouse so the Chairman, needing to leave for another appointment, declares the meeting adjourned. The press leaves. The Chairman leaves. Then another supervisor leaves the room and then the employee shows up. The one remaining supervisor and the employee begin discussing county business. The second supervisor enters and after checking something on the computer sits down behind his desk and also enters into the discussion.
What if any violations occurred?
Who would be held responsible?
What opportunities can You see for the implementation of best practices?
During the open forum covered within the Mt. Pleasant News Village Soup What's New post referenced below Mr. Osborne's behavior was exemplar while Mr. White's was not.
Re: Mt. Pleasant Soup Post: City officials talk to county supervisors about allowing city residents to use county waste site
"Here are “Golden Rules” to help public officials respond to requests for access to public records -- and to explain the legal rights of persons requesting access: Rule 1: The reason a requester wants the record is irrelevant. (So, officials should not ask.) Records which are open to public examination must be produced no matter what the reason for the request. The public can examine and copy a record just because it’s there." Persons seeking to view a copy of the public comments segment of the 3/20/12 Henry County Supervisors meeting to verify my assessment of Osborne's and White's behavior can contact me at 986-6650.
"Here are “Golden Rules” to help public officials respond to requests for access to
public records -- and to explain the legal rights of persons requesting access:
Rule 1: The reason a requester wants the record is irrelevant. (So, officials should not ask.)
Records which are open to public examination must be produced no matter what the reason
for the request. The public can examine and copy a record just because it’s there."
Persons seeking to view a copy of the public comments segment of the 3/20/12 Henry County Supervisors meeting to verify my assessment of Osborne's and White's behavior can contact me at 986-6650.
Last week was Sunshine Week calling attention to Open Meetings and Open Records Laws.
The City of Riverdale Iowa was required to pay over $64,732 in legal fees for a violation of Open Records Law.
We need to avoid those costs. Compliance is cost effective. Going beyond compliance needs to be the transparency goal of the county.
The Rumor Mill
The last report I have received indicates there will be a field of at least 4 Republicans and 1 Democrat running for Henry County Supervisor in the primary. The upcoming primary will select 2 from among the Republicans and automatically place them, along with the lone Democrat, (unless another shows up) on the ballot for the general election. An independent has until later in August to file for being put on the ballot for the general election.
I have been approached and asked to run as an independent in the General Election in November. I am too conservative to be a Democrat and too progessive to be a Republican. For now I will be among those circulating a petition to put the young Democrat on the ballot. He has caught my eye because he is well rooted in rural Henry County, well educated and a pioneering businessman. We do well to listen to this young man and think about what he has to offer.
I doubt that I would come out against him, but for the time being the question remains, would I do well to run along beside him as an independent? Voters will be given the option to vote for two candidates for supervisor in the general election. For me the top questions will be - who among the candidates can be expected to bring transparency and enhanced pubic participation to county government and economic development? Who will represent rural Henry County? Who will promote and celebrate the natural resources of Henry County and then, how best can I support that candidate and those goals? All options are open for now as all my questions remain unanswered.
As an independent voter I will not be participating in the primary, beyond helping to place more options before the voters. My final decision about running in the General Election in November will not be made until August after I have had an opportunity to talk with all the candidates and to listen to what they have to offer and to consider how best the interests of the residents of Henry County are to be served. For now I will be Keeping Watch.