Here’s a question for you. How many days, weeks or months have to pass between when a candidate runs for office claiming that they will bring total transparency to the job and the time, after being elected, that they decide maybe transparency isn’t such a good idea after all?

Apparently it depends on the individual in question and the matter under consideration.

And in the case of some, it never happens. Reelect these people.

We are saddened by the recent action of the Lake County Board of County Commissioners to eliminate commentary from meeting minutes. The minutes now will just include the motion, second and vote of each commissioner. Apparently it’s not good enough to include comments taken directly off the recording of the meeting, and it’s not good enough to include an interpretation of what was said. All minutes have to be approved, which should give any commissioner an opportunity to clarify anything in the minutes before they are approved. Guess that’s not good enough either.

We believe that eliminating the meat from the minutes is not the answer.

The thing is that we citizens don’t just want to know how someone voted; we want to know the reasoning behind that vote because – guess what? – we are the ones putting each elected official in the position they hold and we want to know whether or not we made a wise decision with our vote.

We should not have to vote for officials based on whether or not they can get along with one another. The BOCC meeting room should not be a stage for contention. We are talking about adults here, are we not?

In any case, streamlining the minutes robs the citizen who is trying to figure out what is happening down at the courthouse. Especially when the meetings are held during the day when most are at work.

And, by the way, the same goes for work sessions.

Although minutes don’t have to be taken at work sessions and they don’t have to be recorded, what would an elected official do who wanted true transparency?

Executive sessions are supposed to be recorded. At the very least. Yes, there are times that a board might be able to get around the recording by getting a note from its attorney or some such thing. This is something we’ve never run across, by the way, in multiple years of covering local government.

The law provides that if some member of the public has reason to believe that an executive session was held that didn’t follow the reasons that an elected body is required to give when it goes into executive session, that individual can petition a judge to listen to the recording and make a determination. No recording, no proof.

As we see it, the only reason why any elected body would want to omit recording an executive session is because those officials intend to do something in private that they want to hide. Not so? Then record the meeting.

There was a BOCC meeting scheduled on Wednesday of this week with County Technical Services, Inc., on roles and ethics for the BOCC and county clerk. We hope this training made clearer the concept of transparency as it relates to public officials.

But, in the end, the responsibility for transparency falls to each elected official. Let’s not waste time trying to figure out the bare minimum that one can do to stay within the constraints of the law. The people being represented deserve better.

Marcia Martinek, Herald Editor

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