In her posting, “Westside Land Purchase – was public if you were interested“, Marisue Horton suggests that I, as chair of the Madison School Board’s Legislative Committee “start making recommendations for change. Start changing the process instead of sitting around and bitching about it.”
I am not suggesting that we need new processes. Like Lawrie Kobza, I am advocating that the Madison School Board follow the spirit and letter of existing Wisconsin law. I agree with the principles of the Open Meeting law.
As the law states,
” [a] representative government of the American type is dependent upon an informed electorate, [therefore]it is declared to be the policy of this state that the public is entitled to the fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of government as is compatible with the conduct of governmental business.” Only in specified exceptional cases may the school board go into closed sessions.
I also agree with Lawrie that the narrow exception allowing ongoing negotiations to be discussed behind closed doors did not apply to the October 10 meeting on the purchase of 8.3 acres of land near your home for a future elementary school. The Board’s attorneys disagree. The legal issue will not be resolved until, as Bill Keys recommended, an official complaint has been filed with the Dane County District Attorney and we have his opinion. Isthmus newspaper has filed that complaint and in due time we will have a ruling by a neutral legal authority.
In this case, the Open Meetings law protects the public’s interest in knowing how much the district planned to pay for this particular parcel and the conditions of the sale before the sale was complete. That interest was not respected. Maybe other sellers would have come forward with better offers, if they had known that we were poised to complete this purchase and were willing to sell the land back to them at less-than-appreciated value in the future. Maybe not. We will never know. Seven weeks passed between the signing of the deal by administration and the closed session meeting at which the board accepted the terms. The closing is not until November 15. What was the rush on November 7?