OUR OPINION: County should better equip its board members

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2008

The Marengo County E-911 Board is again having serious issues &8212; and it appears to be a case of the same song, different verse.

The three board members who were present Tuesday night &8212; Bruce Baker, Mike Carlisle and Caroline Rogers &8212; should be commended for attempting to fulfill their obligations to the county.

The three met in &8220;executive session&8221; to discuss ways to get other board members to attend the meetings. The fact that board members need incentive to show up and actually do the job to which they were appointed should anger the taxpayers of Marengo County. The county commission must look at again repopulating the board &8212; and educating the board members on Alabama&8217;s Open Meetings Act.

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When the three members of the board met in &8220;executive session,&8221; they violated the state Sunshine Law. Unless a board has a quorum &8212; a meeting of the majority of the governing body&8217;s members &8212; it cannot enter executive session. State laws clearly explain when and why executive sessions &8212; which are closed to the public &8212; may be called. While we accept that the board members had no malicious intent when they entered into closed-door meetings earlier this week, those sessions were still illegal.

That mistake was made, in part, because the board&8217;s chairman, Sylvan Mutschler, was not present, and the remaining members were inexperienced in running a public meeting. The county commission must step up and educate all of its board members on the legal issues like Alabama&8217;s Open Meetings Act &8212; and the consequences if the law is ignored.

If they don&8217;t, then the commission is guilty of not giving its board members the tools they need to be successful &8212; and in the end will have to repopulate the board again.