Todd Paris, Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney
♦ Wednesday night Salisbury City Council met for “retreat” tonight 5:30 to 8:30 when the council members met for dinner at Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery. This retreat wasn’t posted in normal places on the City Hall’s web page or the door of city hall.
An unusual legal feature allows council to announce at the end of any city council meeting that it will recess and reconvene at another location and time. No notices need be given. This is often done when council and staff wish to be able to discuss and vote on things without allowing public comment. And it’s not usually videoed for later public consumption. No agenda need be printed. If you don’t make it to the end of a city council meeting you will be left in the dark about the 2nd meeting. Top secret eh?
I didn’t stay to the end of Tuesday’s regular council meeting because they didn’t let me speak and I had another very important political meeting at 7:00 p.m. I became aware of Wednesday’s meeting after a local print media reporter twittered at 6:02 P.M. that Salisbury was having a retreat, but someone wouldn’t know it if you looked in the usual places and agendas usually posted. The City Twittered at 6:32 p.m. that City Council would hear a “State of Fibrant” summary.
I threw on an old t-shirt and rushed down to the secret meeting, arrived there at 7:30 p.m., and saw no other media. I would’ve loved to have heard the full “State of Fibrant” summary, but only caught the end when some consultant named Tom was finishing his spiel. He said something about not leading the citizens to have unreasonable expectations. I was curious as to why city council would not want to have a “State of Fibrant” summary videoed for all the taxpayers to see. We will never know what was said at that meeting because there were no media present save the RFP.
By the way Kenny Hardin, Salisbury City Councilman, did not attend even though the Post reported that he did. It was a conscious decision on his part not to attend.
The rest of the meeting was basically information read from a document about how totally wonderful everything is and that all departments had met or were meeting their goals.
Salisbury PR person, Linda McElroy was thanked for her work on Salisbury’s “Rumor Control” page and now we presume to know the author of the work that announced two bullet wounds in Ferguson Laurent and later lambasted local clergy for their angry press conference after ten bullet wounds were revealed in the autopsy report.
Being there at the conclusion, the meeting was recessed till 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning at RCCC. If there are any unemployed citizens reading that wish to attend that would be cool. Council can and probably will vote outside the bright white glare of public scrutiny and media tomorrow, perhaps even setting the budget for this year. No public comment will likely be had and no agenda posted.
The legislature needs to change state law to make sure these budget retreats are exposed to the same scrutiny and subject to the same public notification rules as normal council meetings along with public comment on budget items. This may be legal, but it does not pass “the smell test.”
Of course, when you are council to a crime ridden and failing city and have been subjected to hurtful public comments, it’s much easier to save all the important votes for retreat where pesky taxpayers can not hurt your feelings. No doubt Mayor Alexander and Maggie Blackwell, who have been especially criticized, will enjoy this opportunity to waste money on foolish projects and fail to solve the core challenges destroying this city. I wonder if “what happens at retreat stays at retreat?”