The secrecy wall of a closed session is most obvious when one is asked to leave the room, or is escorted out of the room, and the doors are locked before the closed session can start. What is said in a closed session remains sealed in secrecy? Although secrecy can help bond those who are part of it, it also leads to distrust in those who are excluded from it. So, the question is why are discussions that are not required to be held in closed sessions, held in a closed session? Many things discussed are permitted to be in a closed session, but are not required to be in a closed session and could have been discussed in an open session to help keep the residents better informed.
Someone in the city’s administration makes the decision to keep selected discussions and actions hidden from the public, even when they do not need to be hidden from the public. Who is doing it, and why are they doing it, should be clearly stated on closed session agenda items when a closed session may be permitted, but is not required. Walls of secrecy can be used or misused. They can be used to withhold things from the public or to bar the public’s input. Whether or not there will be enforcement of the required closed session secrecy doesn’t matter because the possibility of enforcement is always real.
To illustrate this point, during the Civil War (which was not civil) when prisoners were captured and there was no place to confine them, a line could be drawn in the ground around an area and the prisoners were placed in that areas and informed that if anyone crossed that line they would be shot dead. In the minds of the prisoners, that line was a real “deadline” that one was not to go beyond which is where the expression “deadline” originated. What one believes is reality and can make a wall real, and it can blind, alter or sometimes replace one’s view and understanding of reality. But whether a wall is real, seen, unseen, imagined or believed, the purpose for which a wall is created is to act as a barrier to separate or isolate.
By breaking that information barrier and informing the public, the GSR has influenced and altered some of the city council actions. But some areas like that of a “closed session” cannot be breached without serious consequences. So, reporting on what happens in them is speculative and based on circumstantial evidence. Was the purpose of one such closed session to evaluate whether the land for a possible Hampton Inn would be approved or accepted, and place the city under a contract to sell public land contingent upon the city making a zoning change for the purchaser prior to the sale or purchase of the land? Who negotiated the selling deal and price? What is the commission on the land if it is sold, and who gets the commission?
These are questions that need to be answered not hidden within a closed session.
Cartoon of the Week