Marion City Council has run into another messy situation with open meetings. Fortunately this time around there was someone on the council defending the public’s right to open meetings.
Mayor Mary Olson acknowledged meeting with council member Jerry Kline, Police Chief Tyler Mermis, and a concerned resident about the city’s regulations regarding fireworks and enforcement of those regulations. On the surface it doesn’t appear to be a violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act, but everybody knows something can be wrong without being illegal.
Council member Todd Heitschmidt said he would prefer such discussions be limited to open session. Olson countered that she likes to have ideas ready when the council begins discussion of issues. That’s understandable, but does Olson really need to discuss things with other council members to get those ideas?
Put it on the agenda. Let everyone — council members, city employees, and the general public — know that you want to discuss fireworks regulations or any other topic of public concern. Whenever there is a question about whether something should be discussed in a scheduled, announced, and public meeting, that is a good sign the issue should be public.
Complying with the letter of the Kansas Open Meetings Act is the bare minimum to get a “passing grade” on government openness and accountability. Maybe our officials should strive for an “A” grade instead of settling for a “C.”
— ADAM STEWART