Executive sessions raise questions among citizens

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 21, 2003

Selma City Hall was open last night. Council chambers, though, were closed.

The Selma City Council met Wednesday for a special called session to deal with pending litigation, the issue of ALATax collecting the city’s sales tax instead of the state, and an Enhanced 911 communication link for transmitting emergency calls.

When time came to discuss the litigation, attorney Valerie Chittom suggested the council enter an executive session because the issue dealt with pending and present litigation.

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Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw made the motion to enter the executive session. Councilman Sam Randolph seconded. The motion passed by a unanimous vote. Councilman B.L. Tucker wasn’t present.

That’s when the council doors figuratively slammed shut.

Alabama law allows for executive sessions when good name and character is being discussed. Present and pending litigation are also reasons an executive session may be entered.

A recent court ruling allows for additional reasons executive sessions may be entered including possible litigation, the awarding of an honorary degree and whether to name a structure after someone.

Goodwin suggested the council could use numbers instead of names when discussing litigation. That way, he said, the session wouldn’t have to be behind closed doors.

He pointed out that numbers were used instead of names when the council discussed hiring a finance director.

Ivory Goodwin, another meeting regular, said she didn’t like the executive sessions. &uot;I can’t remember the last time we came and they didn’t have one,&uot; she said.

Velma Brewer, of Selma, said she had come to the meeting to listen to discussion about E-911. Brewer arrived an hour late and when she stepped off the elevator to enter council chambers she discovered the doors were closed.