Monday, August 7, 2017

Today's civics lesson

Many people, including government employees, are not aware of what rights citizens have under the Open Meetings Act.  The Kingfish recently paid a visit to a local city hall so he could review the minutes of the 2017 meetings of the board of aldermen.  Reading the minutes of your government at work should not be a problem, right?  Guess again.  A city employee said that I would have to file a public records request.  Doing so means the government could take up to fourteen business days to provide me with a copy of the minutes I wanted to review.  Fortunately, the Open Meetings Act provided a way out of this bureaucratic logjam.

Section 25-41-11 of the Mississippi Code states

Minutes of Meetings

(1)Minutes shall be kept of all meetings of a public body, whether in open or executive session, showing the members present and absent; the date, time and place of the meeting; an accurate recording of any final actions taken at such meeting; and a record, by individual member, of any votes taken; and any other information that the public body requests be included or reflected in the minutes. The minutes shall be recorded within a reasonable time not to exceed thirty (30) days after recess or adjournment and shall be open to public inspection during regular business hours.
That last sentence means you have the right to walk into City Hall and see the minutes of all meetings of the Board of Aldermen, Boards, Commissions, or City Council.   Period.  The government can't require the submission of a public records request before you can review them.  They have to be made available immediately.  The government can charge copying fees if you wish to get a copy of the minutes.  Keep in mind the minutes includes all attachments and exhibits such as contracts, claims dockets, invoices, and other documents that are discussed in the public meetings. 

There is also a little-known feature of the Open Meetings Act that is important to public-spirited citizens.  Suppose you go to a meeting of the City Council or Zoning Board.  You notice that the members of that board all have a stack of papers that are identical.  That is loosely termed a "board packet".  That packet contains the documents and materials they will discuss at the meeting.  It is very helpful to have one if one is going to attend such meetings.  Thankfully, the Open Meetings Act gives you some rights to see this packet as well. 

Section 25-41-5 (3) of the Mississippi Code states

An agenda and materials that will be distributed to members of the public body and that have been made available to the staff of the public body in sufficient time for duplication and forwarding to the members of the public body shall be made available to the public at the time of the meeting. Votes taken during any meeting conducted through teleconference or video means shall be taken in a manner that is clearly audible or visible to all members of the public body and to members of the public present at the public location.

A word of advice: These packets tend to be rather large.  It is not uncommon for such packets to be 100-200 pages.  The clerk will appreciate it if you give notice that you will attend the meeting and want a copy when you arrive.  Some governments such as Jackson, Ridgeland, and Madison County are posting these packets on their websites and more should do the same.  Keep in mind that the government can charge a copying charge although some choose not to do so in the spirit of the public interest.  

That is today's lesson on civics in Mississippi.  Read the rest of the Open Meetings Act.  Remember, it is your government regardless of who is elected and you have the right to see what your elected officials are doing.   


Anonymous said...

KF, did you give them your usual charm? I can't imagine why they wouldn't comply with your request!

Anonymous said...

State and local governments do not have transparency. Such is the case when several MDOT employees were caught using beer at Batesville 2 years ago for a college football game. I think Kingfish attempted to peer into that matter if I remember but no names were divulged due to state personnel laws or something of that nature. So, pretty much if you are a gubbermint worker you can hide a lot

Anonymous said...

Kingfish, but that is what Mississippi's elected officials want - an ignorant electorate. They don't want people who think for themselves. Look at the comments when the union was shot down in Canton. Look at the history of civil rights in this state. The plantation mentality will never leave this place. From the aristocrats who own it, down to the descendants of the overseer's pissed off at the descendants of the slaves, assuming they receive better housing and food rations and don't do sh*t in this state.

This place is a cesspool of ignorance.

It perpetuates in futility and wallows in apathy.

That's why a majority of its brightest hit the underground railroad the minute they graduate from high school - barefoot and with a knapsack in hand of hog maws, molasses, and cornbread.

This place will NEVER change for the better! So we will all sit here in misery and be miserable together!

Anonymous said...

Evidently you have never lived outside the borders of this ignorant state. Same events occur in most other states maybe with a bit more sophistication.

Scaramouche said...

Why doesn't the state attorney general go after these city & county employees who misdirect, mislead, misinform, & throw roadblock in the way.
I always thought state law trumps city & local laws. Am I wrong?

Madison Rulz said...

We have a monarchy in Madison so we don't have to worry about that kind of stuff.

Kingfish said...


Mayor Truly threw someone in jail a few years ago who tried to videotape a Board of Aldermen meeting. Remember that one?

Or my fight against Hinds County & the Precious Martin gang over the Motorola settlement. Don't think those were lily-white plantations.

There is enough of this to go around on all sides. Doesn't matter what party, race, or sex, human nature is human nature.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say using a State owned vehicle to purchase beer for a ball game. I apologize that I didn't proofread first. My point is, I wonder how many state employees misuse state vehicles.

Kingfish said...

Ha. Never had an issue in Madison. One of the better cities in terms of responding to public records requests.

Kingfish said...

As for the AG, ask him why he doesn't prosecute all the candidates who don't submit campaign finance reports at the municipal and county level of government.

9:56am said...

Hey Kingfish - 9:56am here

I am including them too.

I can't speak for Madison - but I meant as a collective - state agencies, state legislators, the city councilman, county supervisors, lite governor, big governor.

This is a constant sh*t show.

Anonymous said...

Richard Hood doesn't have a hope in hell of being governor. Useless twit that he is.

Anonymous said...

Wonder where the Board packet is kept at Jackson City Hall? Never saw one out for public viewing.

Kingfish said...

They are on the city website.

See for yourself

Anonymous said...

Is one at liberty to attend a meeting of a public body (such as a commission or industrial board) and video the meeting with a cell phone (or other equipment) with or without asking permission? I ask because I don't know.

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for the info on the open meetings act. reading this post reminds me of a situation i have run into in more than one chancery clerk's office pertaining to public land and court records.

most of the land records rooms have a copy machine and the clerks charge $.25-$.50 per copy to make a copy of deeds, mortgages, contents of court files, etc.

the sharkey county chancery clerk and the holmes county chancery clerk have posted notices that prohibit using cell phones or other devices from taking photos or otherwise scanning the public record.

are the chancery clerks authorized to prohibit use of privately owned photo imaging devices in making copies of public records?

thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

I know everyone has phones these days and likes to film everything, but it is really hard to concentrate on your work when there are cameras pointed toward you from every direction. I hate being filmed while at work and really hate seeing myself on the news.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS