News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Open meetings law will pay dividends

In effect since Oct. 1, the new Alabama open meetings law is causing inconvenience for some boards that continue to operate under the old system.

Some agencies are running afoul of the law because they just haven't cared enough to understand the finer points of the law. Thus, they label the law cumbersome and inconvenient to their preferred way of doing business.

But government that operates in the open is the best government. That's why news media representatives, most city and county officials, legislators and Gov. Bob Riley endorsed the bill.

The law requires state boards and agencies to give a week's notice of regular meetings and 24 hours for called meetings. It also recognizes the necessity of occasional emergency meetings and allows them to take place legally on one hour's notice.

The same rules apply to city councils and county commissions, agencies and advisory boards.

The Historical Commission missed a couple of interviews for an executive director because members failed to give proper notice.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles had to rescind the results of about 150 parole cases recently because it failed to give victims adequate notice of hearings.

Some agencies are making learners' honest mistakes in not meeting the letter of the law. Some others see the law as a continuation of the old game they played with the public under the defunct law that the Alabama Supreme Court rendered worthless.

The new law, however, makes it much easier for a citizen to go into civil court and sue members of government agencies when they violate the law.

So, if those public servants who don't put stock in open meetings don't want to feel the results of their action in their pocketbooks, they will learn the new rules and abide by them.

And Alabama will have better government.

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