For the sake of confusion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Policies and procedures, rules of order and agendas, some maintain that these are nothing more than red tape and rigmarole.

But for the public at large, it is these elements of public meetings that keep public officials on task, and in some instances, honest.

A recent turmoil in the Butler County school community erupted after the board inserted a sentence regarding the termination of the JROTC program at the area’s schools into the board’s minutes.

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Alabama Press Association lawyer, Dennis Bailey, said that when or whether statements are inserted into the minutes of a public meeting are points of order, and would need to be stipulated by the board in question. In other words, what the board did was not illegal or unethical, but we think it was improper.

And the addition of material in that manner may not have been entirely in the public’s best interest.

Several JROTC supporters who attended the meeting where the program’s termination was discussed stated they left the meeting with the false impression that the JROTC program’s troubles were over because the inserted statement was left out of Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed’s recommendation to reinstate it.

The whole point of public meetings is to allow the public to have complete access to how their elected officials are handling their (the publics) business. By omitting facts or statements, even by accident, then inserting those facts outside of the public forum, defeats the purpose of the &uot;right to know&uot; elements of the Sunshine Law, which protects the rights of citizens to obtain this information.

We know our board and superintendent can do better to keep the public informed and implore them to do so. As public officials, they work for us, and we have a right to accurate and &uot;up-front&uot; information.