March 6, 2012

The problem of not-so-secret secret Council documents

Update: at 0825EST on March 7, 2012, the city clerk’s office sent me a copy of the TO2015 letter.

City Hall has a problem, they often don’t release public documents presented to and debated by Council in a timely fashion.

Once a document is debated by Council or slides shown to Council, they are public documents – full stop.

By law, they should be available. Too often, they are not.

Pan Am baseball stadium letter

The latest public document the City is refusing to release: the letter from TO2015 requesting interest from communities to build a baseball stadium for the games.

Council discussed the letter during their meetings last week.

I requested a copy of this public document from Clerks only to be told it will be released tomorrow night during the Council meeting.

The letter was received by the City on March 1st and should’ve been included with the documents released as part of the Council agenda posted Monday. It was not.

Not released – why?

Usually this means the letter was not forwarded to the Clerks by the receiving staff. This happens on a regular basis.

It means citizens are not able to read the letter in advance of Council debating it and not able to provide their elected official with direction.

In this matter, the outcome is known – Council has no interest in the Pan Am and the public is with them on that.

Fixing the problem

The planned City website must include easier upload of public documents and staff must quickly forward documents to the Clerks. When slides are presented to Council, it must required that an electronic copy is immediately posted to the web.

As soon as a document is provided to Council for open session discussion, it should be posted as well.

In short, public documents should be publicly available.