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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Those Pesky Norfolk Pols...

A nice column quoting yours truly...

Uh-oh. Looks like Norfolk City Council's undemocratic instincts are on display.


Maybe it's time to remind these elected officials that city councils are not exclusive clubs with secret signs and handshakes.

Council members aren't supposed to hide from the people. Or shield the citizens from unpleasant news.

Yet that's exactly what Norfolk's honchos did last week when they reviewed a report - prepared at taxpayer s' expense, of course - on the financial antics of a now-defunct nonprofit development corporation. These shenanigans could eventually cost taxpayers a whopping $245,000.

And a bit later on....

That's unlikely to happen today, however, because the politicians have decamped to Smithfield for a retreat.

Determined citizens would have to travel more than 50 miles round trip to attend. Technically, the retreat is open to the public.

This urge to flee is "used all too frequently" by public bodies, says Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the Missouri School of Journalism. He called out-of-town meetings "thinly veiled" attempts by elected officials to meet out of the public eye.

"They've got nice meetings rooms in Norfolk," Davis noted. "I've been there."

Jennifer Perkins, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, wasn't surprised that Norfolk City Council was assembling outside city limits.

"We have this come up fairly often," she sighed. "They forget, as a public entity, they not only need to obey the letter of the law but also... the spirit of the law.

"They should be close to home during convenient hours."

Now there's a thought.

Read the whole thing here.

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