Selma’s city business shouldn’t be closed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 6, 2003

The front page of Tuesday’s Selma Times-Journal featured a picture of Selma residents waiting for their City Council to finish its executive session. According to Selma City Attorney Jimmy Nunn, the reason for the executive session included the possibility of litigation and good name and character.

A special called meeting of the council occurred Monday for the purpose of discussing contamination at the old All-Lock facility on Water Avenue. Before the council heard from concerned citizens about that contamination, though, it shut the doors and had a meeting all to itself.

In an age where trust in government wanes thin, we believe executive sessions should be the execption and not the rule.

A recent court ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court, Auburn University v. The Advertiser, allows a number of additional reasons public bodies may enter executive sessions. Previously, good name and character and pending litigation were the only reasons governments could enter executive sessions. The new ruling adds possible litigation, the awarding of honorary degrees and the naming of structures after individuals as reasons for entering these &uot;secret&uot; sessions.

We are disappointed to see the Selma City Council already resorting to one of these new reasons for closing its doors while conducting the public’s business.

Governments, from time to time, need secrecy in delicate matters; that’s why The Sunshine Law exists. But nothing in the law requires the Selma City Council to enter an executive session. When it does so, it closes the doors of its own free will.

In the future, we hope the council will enter these sessions only after careful deliberation and exhausting all other possibilities. The council may have the legal right to close its doors, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Selmians deserve a number of things from their government &045;&045; police and fire protection and garbage collection to name a few.

And we also deserve an open-door policy when it comes to conducting public business.