When the new Jackson County Board of Supervisors meets in 2016, one of the first orders of business should be to adopt a new policy on transparency and openness. For too many decades the board has found itself in disgrace due to the hidden actions that benefit only a few.
The new board should make earnest and forthright progress. They can begin by moving public comments to the beginning of the meeting. What is the point of public input after votes have been taken?
A second step would be to put all agenda items and documents online prior to the meeting. Consent agenda, claims docket, and everything that will be in the supervisors packet should be available online for public review.
In the interest of history and understanding, all minutes from the last five years (or more) should be posted online in their entirety. Further, the items that are put online should be legible, searchable, and machine readable. The documents should be allowed to be indexed by Google and other search engines for future retrieval.
The board should also constrain the use of executive session. The current board makes liberal use, hiding true deliberation from public view. In fact, the reasons for executive session and actions taken therein are specious and too many times violate the spirit and letter of the law.
The new board should take a pledge to not participate in a closed session of any group where they serve in an ex-officio capacity. If a board member is serving in his official capacity, the public should be welcomed to view any deliberations he might participate in with private groups. This includes groups such as the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation who seek to reduce corporate tax liability on the backs of homeowners and the Gulf Coast Business Council.
The new board should also be self policing. If a supervisor seeks to violate the public policy and laws of this state, his fellow supervisors should be on the record in their opposition. While this might make for contentious meetings, such confrontation would absolutely unnecessary if all were doing the right thing.
Supervisors should recuse themselves from all discussion wherein they may have a pecuniary benefit. Discussions, not votes. Leave the room and don’t come back until the vote is taken.
What do you think the new BOS should do to improve transparency and openness?