Opinion: Secret Meetings

OPINION: Secret meetings would erode public trust

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/29/10. COLUMBUS — I was disappointed to see that some Columbus City Council members are considering conducting closed-door meetings in the future ( Dispatch article, last Tuesday). Secret meetings, held out of public view, undermine the very foundation of our government and erode public trust in elected officials. If government is to be effective, it must be accountable to the people. When meetings are held in private, watchdogs are unable to effectively guard against corruption. Decisions that are made in closed-door sessions often are tainted by suspicion, which weakens the City Council’s ability to implement laws. City leaders often opine about the need to engage more community members in civic life, but closed-door meetings only serve to alienate the public from local government. Many residents might choose not to become involved because the message from the City Council is that they are not welcome at meetings.

Council members serve the people, and the people’s right to know should be a priority for all elected officials. Closed meetings engender distrust and will spoil any positive steps the City Council makes on a host of issues.

Leaders should scrap this misguided plan and focus on engaging the community rather than locking the door.

MIKE BRICKNER, Communications director

American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Cleveland