Surprise council goes to school on state’s Open Meeting Law - East Valley Tribune: West Valley

Surprise council goes to school on state’s Open Meeting Law

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Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011 5:15 am

The Surprise City Council received a refresher course this week on the state’s Open Meeting Law, just a few weeks after being vindicated for the second time for alleged wrongdoing regarding the hiring of a new city manager.

Discussions were led by City Attorney Michael Bailey, the city’s official parliamentarian during council meetings and executive sessions, about what can be discussed in front of the public and must be kept confidential during the closed-door sessions, respectively.

Bailey said executive sessions are not “secret meetings” and there are five different legal opportunities when city councils can conduct business away from the public.

The opportunities include employment matters; legal advice; contract negotiations; purchase, sale or lease of property; and employee and international/tribal matters.

While Bailey acknowledged Tuesday’s discussion was spurred by the closed-door meeting to hire a new city manager, talks centered on specifics of the Open Meeting Law and stopped short of whether the city was in the wrong for what some feel was a hiring decision away from the public eye.

Bailey said changes will be made to executive session public notices, which will include a more comprehensive description of what will be discussed among the council, attorneys and other parties.

In March, the City Council came under fire for declaring Chris Hillman as Surprise’s new city manager upon reconvening its meeting in front of the public.

The closed-door meetings do not allow public officials to vote or draw a consensus on any official city business.

Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or zcolick@yourwestvalley.com.

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