Video: Columbus City Attorney Comments On Open Meetings Ruling
COLUMBUS, Miss. (PRESS RELEASE) – City Attorney Jeff Turnage, when contacted about the Court’s ruling, stated that he was disappointed by the ruling.
He said he certainly understands the importance of openness in government, but that he thought the decision creates more questions than it answers.
“If this decision is upheld, then what communications may be had between meetings?” Turnage asked.
Turnage stated that the Mayor and members of the City Council have asked about a number of different scenarios with regard to communications between themselves and whether they could legally talk outside of a meeting.
“I had to tell them ‘I just cannot answer that anymore’.” Turnage said. “For example” he said “Can the Mayor and only a couple of members of the council talk, if there’s less than a quorum?”
“Right now, that’s an unanswered question because apparently we are no longer going to follow the definition of a “meeting” as the Legislature defined it in the Code.” Turnage said.
He added, “If we follow this ruling to its logical end, the Mayor and members of the Council will be muzzled between meetings because otherwise they’re in jeopardy of a fine. That cannot be how the Legislature intended the Open Meetings Act to work and it flies in the face of the plain language of the Open Meetings Act.”
Further, the implications of this case don’t just affect Columbus.
Turnage said “State Boards, other cities, counties and local units of government are all governed by the Open Meetings Act. I expect this will cause a lot of uncertainty and confusion statewide about what can be said and under what circumstances.”
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