In the state of Mississippi the efforts of some public officials to exclude the taxpayers from their deliberations on the expenditure of public funds has reached epidemic proportions. The sad thing is that the weak laws in this state don’t offer much relief for the taxpaying public.
In one day we get to observe a state official, State Auditor Stacey Pickering, and his staff admit under oath their efforts to hide information not only from the public, but from a Judge.
Then the Bay St. Louis Mayor and City Council call a “special” meeting to finalize the purchase of a new fire truck that will come in at slightly over $500,000. The notice of the meeting went out the morning of the meeting. This doesn’t give John Q. Public much chance to make arrangements to listen or participate in the discussion of the purchase of this equipment with our hard earned tax dollars.
No one is questioning the necessity of the equipment, but the urgency of the meeting is what is suspect.
We can all debate the language of the Open Meetings Statute as to the” letter” of the law, but it is the total abandonment of the “spirit of the law” and the monumental efforts of public officials to disregard it that is so disappointing. I can assure you as one who has assisted in sponsoring local political forums none of those who ran for office promised the voters they would deliver the minimum amount of representation to them as their public servants; they promised to give it their all.
The legislature has dictated the minimum requirements public bodies have to meet to protect the taxpayer and tax dollar, but there is no law against opening the windows of government and expanding the opportunities for taxpayers’ full access to the government they fund. This is why a few hours notice of a public meeting for something that is, according to Ward IV Councilman Bobby Compretta, “not an emergency” is an outright insult to the public that picks up the tab and pays the salaries of those who make such decisions.
We have a New Year approaching, so let’s crawl out of this cave, abandon the good ole boy cronyism, and get in touch with the 21st Century.
Hopefully in 2014, the New Year’s Baby will usher in a fresh new face on the political scene, and we’ll see:
- The State Auditor acknowledge that he actually keeps books for the public
- The Hancock County Board of Supervisors catch up with publishing their dockets (they are 15 months behind in the newspaper, and 4 years behind on their website).
- See the Bay St. Louis Mayor and City Council and the Bay-Waveland School Board finally stop taping notices of last minute meetings on doors that very few pass by during the day.
If our communities are to round the corner of the final phase of recovery, we have to all pull together, or I can a assure you, it will not get done, and the taxpaying public is as important a part of this equation as any public body.
Lana Noonan, Chairman [email]
Hancock County Alliance for Good Government
The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government promotes Excellence in Education, Integrity in Spending Public Money & Openness in Governing.