Please consider this…. The public is entitled to access to all government activities, records, and meetings.
It is the citizens’ right and responsibility to know what their government is doing. It is the unalienable right of the people to participate in their government.
If you haven’t thought about this then it is time you started. The City Council of Henderson met to have a very important work session last weekend and did not inform the citizens or the public. There was no official notice of the meeting given. But, there were excuses.
The City Clerk, who has held this position since 1988, and whose statutory responsibility it is to notify the public of meetings said she was unavailable and thought someone else was going to give notice. This is no excuse. It takes one stroke of the computer to send the notice. Obviously this meeting was set well in advance since an outside consultant was employed to run the meeting.
The acting city manager, Ed Wyatt, and the mayor of Henderson, Pete O’Geary both are experienced with municipal meetings and they both know that the “city intending to deliver notice” is no excuse for failure to follow state law.
Evans, Davis, Daeke, Alston, and Rainey have all served on the Council and know the legal requirements for holding a public meeting. Inscoe chaired the Zoning Board so he, too, knew the legal requirements for open meetings. Yet, they did not follow the law and allowed the meeting to go forward. There is no excuse for this.
Can we excuse Daye and Peace? No. They are elected to represent us and should have questioned the legality of the meeting when no one from the public showed up.
This is already the second time that this council has held a questionable meeting. Billy Strickland, the city attorney defended the council having a closed meeting to discuss different locations for municipal hall. Wonder what he would have to say about this meeting?
The law specifically says that workshop meetings, agenda meetings, work sessions, and even conference calls have to be open to the public and notice must be made to everyone who requests it.
So, what can the citizens of Henderson, the citizens who are having their business discussed in questionable meetings, do?
First, educate yourself. Go to www.ncopengov.org/openmeetingslaw and read. Next, e-mail the city clerk at email@example.com and tell her to share your thoughts with the mayor, the manager, the city attorney, and all council representatives about keeping our government available to us. Also, ask her to notify you of all meetings of the city. This is a good way to know what your council is doing. (Don’t go to Henderson’s website to get their e-mail addresses because even though the election was in October, as of Jan. 28th the information has not been updated). Third, e-mail Glen Craven at the Dispatch firstname.lastname@example.org and ask that the paper ask the court to issue a declaratory judgment, which is finding that a violation has taken place. Finally, e-mail the city attorney at email@example.com and ask his opinion on keeping our government accessible to the citizens and ask that a copy of the minutes of that meeting be electronically sent to you.
Take a stand for your government. Do not allow them to apologize and offer excuses. Let them know you know better.