Closed-session tactics

There is a great article in the Press of Atlantic City today about the misuse of closed-session meetings.

When the Atlantic City Board of Education went into closed session Monday night, it left the audience with little to do but speculate on how long it might be before the public meeting began. But the practice of government bodies opening public meetings, then going into lengthy closed sessions with no time limits, may soon have to change.

I will admit that closed-session meetings are critical when dealing with issues involving lawyers and private matters. However, a tendency I have noticed with Cumberland County Freeholders, both under Magazzu and now under Whelan, is to have a closed session meeting at the end of a night. The Freeholders will go into closed-session, and they never give the public a clue as to how long the session will be.

Of course, when they finally retire from the closed session, most if not all of the news media have left for the night. All of the public has left out of boredom. This tactic is an affront to the public that do take the time and energy to attend. And, it is a thinly veiled tactic that allows the Freeholders to agree on decisions that are not popular – and escape media and public attention.

Often, it seems the press is leaked the “approved” version of the meeting, sometimes prior to the meeting being concluded. It makes me wonder how many of the Freeholders discussed these sessions prior, in violation of Sunshine Laws? of course, we would have to have access to their cell-phone records to even begin to prove that one…

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