Canton board refuses to report
executive session actions
By LaReeca Rucker
A vote was held and action was taken during an executive session Tuesday at City Hall, but the Mayor and board won’t tell the public what happened.
Mayor Fred Esco, city attorney Bill Collins and board members all refused to say what action was taken during the executive session meeting Tuesday afternoon. Withholding the information is believed to be a violation of the Mississippi Open Meetings Act.
Following an executive session during which board members discussed issues that involved the Canton Police and Fire Departments, the Mayor and aldermen returned to the public meeting room, but Esco did not acknowledge that any action had been taken Tuesday and dismissed the meeting before reporting what had occurred.
When prompted to report what had taken place during the executive session, Esco deferred comments to city attorney Bill Collins, who also refused to answer.
“They took votes on a personnel matter, and the people who are involved need to be notified,” Collins said.
He also said he understood that city officials were not legally required to report action taken during an executive session until the minutes of the board meeting have been officially recorded.
But according to Page 28 of “Opening Closed Doors: A Guide to the Mississippi Open Meetings Act,” “if a request for the minutes is made before the minutes have been recorded and/or approved, the body (board) must make available the notes from which the minutes will be prepared.”
Collins said no minutes were taken during the executive session, but the Mississippi Open Meetings Act says minutes must be kept for all open and executive sessions of a public body covered by the law.
Minutes must include what members are present and absent; the date, time and place of the meeting; an accurate recording of any final actions; a record by individual members of any votes taken; and any other information that the public body requests be included.
The minutes must be recorded within 30 days after recess or adjournment, but if a request for the minutes is made before the minutes have been recorded and/or approved, the body (board) must make available the notes from which the minutes will be prepared.
The law states that recorded minutes must be open to public inspection during regular business hours.
Board members discussed the “transaction of business and discussion of personnel matters relating to the job performance at the police department” during the executive session.
They also discussed the "transaction of business of personnel matters relating to the job performance at the fire department” and “strategy sessions or negotiations with respect to threatened litigation.”
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