Now you see it, now you don't
Among The materials in this week’s Marion City Council packet, one item stood out from the rest: The Marion Airport Board Meeting Mintues of Oct. 7.
Unlike the other documents, this single sheet of paper had four odd-looking black streaks on it. Strategically placed black streaks that concealed a name.
Blacked-out text on public records of open meetings, to this journalist, is what too many sweets are to a 4-year-old. My metabolism increases exponentially, as does my activity, and of course, my curiosity.
It was a public meeting. If I’d have attended, I’d have known that name. Everyone who was in the room knew his name — not only was he introduced, but he made a presentation about an agricultural spraying service he wants to build at the airport.
New business? That’s news. So why was his name blacked out of the public record of the meeting?
It was strange enough that I consulted Mike Merriam, legal counsel for the Kansas Press Association. My question was simple enough: Was this a violation of the Kansas Open Records Act?
His answer was even more simple: “Yes.”
I followed up by talking to City Administrator Roger Holter. Mr. Blackout had reasons for wanting to remain anonymous, personal and business reasons. Holter, apparently sensitive to his situation, as well as considerate of what he described as legal implications for the city, aquiesced to the request for anonymity. It was Holter’s way of doing his job as he sees it.
I understand and sympathize with what we discussed. But there’s still that issue of the Open Records Act, and Merriman’s unequivocal legal opinion that it was violated. That was my first reaction upon seeing the marks, and having had that affirmed, I stick with it.
When a person makes a proposal in a public meeting, they’ve given up the right to anonymity. Perhaps someone else should have made the proposal on his behalf if he wanted his identity to remain a secret. It worked for Wal-Mart.
We’re pointing this out with the hope that doing so will keep this type of thing from happening again. Black marks drive me crazy. They should do so for you, too.
Last modified Oct. 15, 2014