Archive for Thursday, June 23, 2005

Open Meetings Law violation unfortunate

June 23, 2005

A violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Law by the Baldwin City Council June 2 is a violation of the public's trust, pure and simple. However, it is clear that the violation was not intentional, but merely an oversight. Does that make it less grievous? Ultimately, that's for you -- the public -- to decide.

City Administrator Jeff Dingman readily admitted the mistake Wednesday. When called, the first words out of his mouth were "I owe you an apology."

What happened was a hastily called special meeting of the city council on June 2 regarding two possible land purchases. The owner of one of the parcels, where the Baldwin City Municipal Golf Course is, wanted to know by June 3 if the city was interested in purchasing the land.

It was an opportunity to get a foot in the door early on a piece of property near the Midland Railway Depot that could possibly be an answer to growing recreation needs in the city. Time was of the essence.

The other land acquisition item was the Allen property, the 43-acre tract north of Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center, which the city has held an option to purchase for the last two years. A possible extension of that option had to be negotiated by June 17. However, the council decided -- unanimously -- to walk away from the property and the $21,000 invested there in what could have been a business park.

Obviously, both these items were important and certainly worthy of a special meeting. As Dingman also admitted, the interest in those items by the public was also obvious.

He regrets having forgotten to notify the Signal. Since he took over as city administrator several years ago, he has been diligent in keeping the public informed on such items. We believe it was an oversight.

It did violate the public's trust, even though unintentional. With what was on the line, some may believe it wasn't accidental. We believe it was. We also believe it won't happen again.

It's doubtful there will be any sanctions as a result of the violation. The law calls for council members to be fined $500 for "intentionally" violating the law. This wasn't intentional. It was unfortunate.

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