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Fleecing the Public.
 
     Welcome to another of my rants dealing with both elected and appointed public officials and their way of getting around the Alabama Open Meetings Act or Sunshine Law.
 
     Executive Session:  That’s the catch word for hiding what’s going on and it is abused much more than one would think.
 
     I invite all officials, elected or appointed, to take a look at Alabama Code 36-25A-1 through 11.  There’s a lot of good stuff contained in there and it can help keep an honest person from going to jail.  The only real problem with this is, getting the justice system to do their job, but I digress.
 
     So many of our officials, both elected and appointed, are not bad people, they just don’t have the time to look, study and determine what they are responsible to and for.  Conversely some are shady characters well aware of what’s contained within 36-25A and choose to go their own way until someone steps up to stop them.
 
     Approximately 2 years ago I discovered such a breech in behavior and filed charges against the offending body.  Naturally the legal system did not want to perform their job and take action so anything needing done fell back on me requiring that I pay out of my pocket in an attempt to correct wrongdoing.
 
     Several years ago I investigated a local rural water system and discovered illegal activities up to and including what can only be termed as theft of an undetermined amount of but well in excess of a quarter million dollars of water system customer’s money.  Mismanagement ran rampant within this water system and armed with the information I had (primarily in the handwriting of the water authority itself) I attempted to get the local authorities involved but to no avail.  I made 3 trips to the attorney general’s office in Montgomery and the very best I got was a statement from one of the lackey’s employed there that, “Mr. Windham, it’s not murder or rape so it’s not high enough profile for the attorney general to do anything.”  So much for justice.  Again, I paid out of my pocket to bring this group to court in an attempt to recover the public’s money.  
 
     As I tell virtually everyone, America is a fine place to live; they have everything including a wonderful legal system.  Unfortunately the one thing they don’t have is a justice system.  As soon as one is devised and catches up to our “legal” system this will be the greatest country in the world.  
 
     Back to the Alabama Open Meetings Law and the ongoing hiding of public business.
 
     Believe it or not, should an executive session be legitimately called it cannot be like a smorgasbord of items to be discussed.   One item, one executive session.  Constantly you hear “we’re going into executive session to discuss good name and character, pending litigation, etc., etc.  Not right folks, not right!!!!!!  Also, going into executive session is to be a voice vote issue and each person in the group is to vote.  Along with that there should be some estimate of a time limit on how long the session will last.      There is NO voting in executive session, the body must come back out into regular session to vote.
 
     It seems almost every elected or appointed body thinks once those doors close and the public is out of sight and sound its open house for whatever they want to do. 
 
     If you attend the meetings on a regular basis and be aware of what’s going on you can actually catch certain things that you haven’t heard before and then raise questions.  Quiet recently a situation came up where this very thing happened in a government meeting and enough of a slip of the tongue was made where I picked up on something that had never been discussed in the open.  Upon questioning the governing body, no one seemed to remember exactly where that information had been discussed.  Fortunately the attorney was on hand and when asked if it could have been discussed in executive session, he admitted that, yes, it had been. 
 
     Folks that’s illegal government, I don’t care who you are.  Now a great portion of the public is sitting out there saying, “Gee, who really cares.”  Take a look at your budgets and see what’s going on there, when you see the outlay of money amounting to millions of dollars do you get concerned?  Unfortunately I can answer that question that most folks don’t care and don’t know.  That’s your money people, these people are put into position to manage your assets (money) and you let them get away with this.  Would you turn your check book over to someone like that and allow them carte blanc?  Woe be unto you if you do.
 
     I really can’t understand why any group of elected or appointed officials would want to go into executive session to start with.  So long as they conduct business in the open they are protected from being sued, not so with business conducted in executive session.
 
     I’ve been to numerous meetings from water boards, to lake projects, to business issues and tons of others.  The abuse of the executive session is not regulated to our commission body or our city council.  I really think the bad habits of our major entities in using and abusing the executive sessions teach the others bad habits and they learn fast.
 
     It really makes one wonder, especially me, when I make a picture of a certain item already being done then attend a meeting where 3 hours after I made the picture it is an issue that must be voted on.  Why vote then?  It’s already being done so what difference does it make?  It would have been really funny had the motion failed.  I’d love to see how some of them could have backed out of that gracefully.
 

     Again folks, it’s your money, it’s your government, and it’s your right to know what’s going on inside that little group of folks.  I encourage you to get involved, monitor what’s happening.  Being elected to an office does not make you an untouchable God; it makes you even more accountable to your fellow man.   


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