Last week I tried to attend the Park City School Board’s Master Planning Committee meeting. This committee is addressing the issue of moving the 5th/6th grade school to Ecker Hill and redesigning the Kearns Campus. Much to my surprise I was told “there is no meeting.” The receptionist then called someone who asked “who wanted to know?”… and when I told her, she repeated the fact that there was no meeting. Later I found out that they switched the meeting to an “Executive Meeting” and it was closed to the public. Funny. I have attended meetings since January and I can’t recall a closed meeting.
This morning, on KPCW, School Superintendent Dr Ember Conley said there was another “closed” Executive Meeting tonight.
My question is, what’s with all the secrecy? The problem is, we are about a month from the School Board decision to vote for a bond to build a new school and redesign a campus. The public has a fundamental right to know how our local government makes their decisions. This is a topic that will impact our entire community and to have to two closed door meetings in a week right before they make a recommendation to the school board, at best does us a disservice and at worst makes citizens wonder what is really going on.
You may say, “many of our government’s entities have non-public meetings.” That is true, but they are only allowed by Utah State Law for very specific reasons like personnel, litigation, and buying property. In fact the Open Meetings Act states:
The point is that our School Board and its committees exist to conduct the public’s business. They serve us, the citizens. There are only a few legitimate reasons why a meeting should be closed and one of them isn’t to try to decide how to clean up the mess they have made with regard to this process.
It’s true that this committee’s LEGAL requirement to follow the Open Meetings act is in a little bit of a grey area, since it is a committee with less than a quorum of School Board members on it. That said, the SPIRIT of the law would dictate that this group should discuss OPENLY all decisions that it will ultimately recommend to the School Board.
If the committee doesn’t discuss these matters openly, it makes me wonder what they don’t want the public to know.