Meetings of the Scottsdale City Council are required by Arizona state statute (AZ Open Meeting Law) to be held in public session with a few very specific exemptions, like personnel matters and legal advice for pending litigation.
Statutes require that citizens be given proper advance notice of the meetings, including a meeting agenda. Specifically:
Agendas must contain information reasonably necessary to inform the public of the matters to be discussed or decided. A.R.S. § 38-431.09.
For the aforementioned “executive session” meetings where the public is excluded, agenda item descriptions can be a little more vague:
Agendas for executive sessions may describe the matters to be discussed more generally than agendas for public meetings in order to preserve confidentiality or to prevent compromising the attorney-client privilege. A.R.S. § 38-431.02(I). Nonetheless, the agenda must provide more than a recital of the statute that authorizes the executive session.
However, I do not believe that should be construed as to allow descriptions to be intentionally vague. I’ve complained before about both the excessive use of executive sessions by the Scottsdale City Council AND the vagueness by which those sessions are described. Mayor Lane led another executive session meeting this afternoon, before which I expressed my displeasure at the inadequately descriptive agenda. Read the agenda for yourself and see if YOU can tell what the items are describing.
I pointed out that in addition to no physical location at all on the first item; the second item on the agenda described a physical location that doesn’t exist.
“Stetson and 6th Ave” is not an intersection. A pilot friend pointed out to me that those two east-west parallel streets would only intersect if they were oriented north-and-south…and even then they’d only intersect at the North and South Poles.
In my humble opinion, even an executive session agenda should describe exactly the possible actions and/or transactions that are being anticipated. Any legal advice can be kept confidential but there simply isn’t enough detail in the descriptions for the public to know what their elected representatives are considering.
Abuse of executive session by former Mayor Manross was a consistent theme of Jim Lane’s previous campaign and a bragging point about his first year or two in office. You can bet that whatever it is, it will involve spending tax dollars. Hiding spending is not a good thing to do in an election year!
As an aside, I note with mild amusement that the last item on the proposed agenda for the January 24th City Council meeting is “ethics refresher training.” I wonder if City Attorney Washburn is going to cover the AZ Open Meeting Law under that heading?
You can now view my comments to the City Council via the meeting video posted here: http://scottsdale.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=82&clip_id=4055
And by the way, there apparently has been a new policy implemented to eliminate “call to the public,” aka “public comment,” from executive session agendas. Obviously, I’m pressing for change in that policy. Stay tuned (but don’t hold your breath).
I also note that Paradise Valley recently got spanked (or I should say, spanked itself) for a more innocuous (and unintentional) flirtation with the boundaries of the Arizona Open Meeting Law. As reported on AZCentral:
This is not the first discussion I’ve had recently with Mayor Lane and the City Council about improper agenda descriptions of executive session items. There was an executive session meeting on 6 December 2011 and I voiced my objections during the following regular meeting at about 00:25:00.