Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Officials who discuss litigation in private infringe public's rights

Open meeting laws often exempt from public view meetings of a legislative body held to discuss pending legislation. But, as Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, points out in The Mercury News, resolving litigation often involves decisions that go well beyond whether to write a check. Scheer explains:
"This means that, under the protective veil of settling litigation, a city council can -- in the secrecy of a closed session -- make all manner of policy decisions that both tie the hands of future councils and commit to decisions that otherwise would require public input and debate. And because the most important and thorniest issues facing a community are commonly the subject of litigation, the public will be bypassed on the very issues in which its interest is greatest."

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