Open government: See it can be done

City meetings in Lake City are, in many ways, an exercise in local government transparency.

While we would be eager to say that the citizens of Lake City are the beneficiaries of this kind of openness, the sad part is there are virtually no citizens there to experience it or benefit from it.

Lake City’s elected official do not hide from citizens and run behind closed doors to discuss the people’s business in executive session every time they meet.

But then again, they don’t have to run and hide to get way from the people they serve, because the citizens are not at their public meetings to begin with.

At least they weren’t this week.

Nevertheless, city leaders give detailed reports on government finances, public facilities and public safety.

The police department gives the details about crime in the city and in the interest of true accountability to taxpayers, even gives details on the miles driven by officers over the course of the month.

Citizens have every right to know how every dime of their money is being spent.

They have a right to know how safe their city is or is not.

They have every right to know everything about their own city government.

In Lake City, it seems, not only do they have the right to know, they have the means to know, just by showing up at city meetings.

It is disconcerting that too many elected officials in Clayton County and in other cities in the county seem to think they must hide the public’s business from them.

We will continue to fight this battle on the behalf of the citizens of Clayton County and each of its cities.

We will also sing the praises of those elected officials who get it right and who understand that local government belongs to the governed not the governing.

Government transparency is part and parcel of freedom.

We challenge other elected official to take “Executive Session,” off your regular meeting agendas and to only use that privilege under very limited circumstances when deemed absolutely necessary.

Lake City only has executive sessions on very limited occasions.

That is the way it should be.

We have also seen a spirit of openness in Lovejoy and Jonesboro.

We hope things are moving in the right direction in Forest Park.

Things may have gotten a bit better in Morrow, but they still have a ways to go.

We’ll try to keep a more watchful eye on Riverdale and College Park.

Now, it is time for the Clayton County Commission and the Clayton County Board of Education to get on board and stop these regular, standing executive sessions.

Citizens deserve better.

And, once again, we remind officials and citizens alike there is no provision in state law that requires local officials to go into executive session to discuss personnel issues, land acquisition or litigation.

They choose to.

— Editor Jim Zachary


onebrightday 2 years, 6 months ago

Lake City...Transparent!?!! Are we talking about the same Lake City that has never had a proper functioning website? Not making publicly available annual audit reports? Failing to complete annual Financial Surveys as required by state law since 2010? The same Lake City that has surely repeatedly violated Open Meeting Laws by the mayor and council-members congregating in the mornings and discussing city business, abusing Executive Session, false swearing, suppressed or hidden public access to Open Records requests from citizens? The same Lake City that has demonstrated gross ethical abuse by among other things failing to place an unnamed Disadvantaged Business Entity on the city's bid list for wrecker service and furthermore failing to put out for bid the service when they were operating without a contract with Forest Park Wrecker for many years? If this is transparency, then we must all be blind. Maybe the newly enacted Sunshine Laws will produce some changes for Lake City and Clayton County as a whole but until then dark shadows are still cast over Lake City and the county. If the GA Secretary of State's Office, the GA Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission and heaven forbid the Georgia Bureau of Investigation looked into the "city" that is the City of Lake City they would very likely produce a number of civil and criminal violations possibly leading to numerous accusations and indictments and the eventual dissolution of the city by the Governor and the state legislature.


DavidLockhart 2 years, 6 months ago

I appreciate this article, Mr. Zachary. When governments operate behind closed doors, they send a message that suggests that the truth deserves to be hidden. We are a free people; we elect representatives, not rulers. Secret meetings a/k/a "executive sessions" breed distrust. Historically, governments have given their people ample reason to distrust them. It is difficult to trust elected officials in plain sight. When they operate secretly, they only further the disconnect between them and those they have sworn to serve.


OscarKnight 2 years, 5 months ago

......"Secret Meetings" ?

....This is the reasoning behind Golf Courses and Lunches.


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