Ashe, officials clash over closing state museum board meeting, News Sentinel reports

Tom Humphrey with the Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Victor Ashe, a former lawmaker and former Knoxville mayor, has clashed with the state museum board on which he sits over a plan to close a meeting to discuss selection of a new museum director.

An excerpt from the story:

The board governing the Tennessee State Museum, officially known as the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission, has scheduled an eight-hour “workshop” for March 28 to discuss the selection of a new museum executive director to succeed Lois Riggins-Ezzell at some point.

In an exchange of email with Tom Smith of Nashville, who chairs a museum board committee on “succession planning” that set up the workshop, Ashe said the meeting should be open to the public. Smith said that it should not and suggested Ashe was being unreasonably critical.

“I’d have thought you would be delighted to be included in the workshop to provide your input, instead of continuing to question every little thing we do,” Smith said in an email provided by Ashe to the News Sentinel.

Ashe’s rejoinder to Smith’s email: “Questioning whether a meeting is open to the public is not a little thing as we were briefed by the (attorney general) at our last meeting on the broad issue. I would hope one can raise questions without being criticized for doing so. You surely by now are aware of my lifelong backing for open meetings and should not be surprised or irked when I do so. I do not take it personally when you differ with me and suggest we keep our differences at that level.”

Read the full story here: Ashe, state museum officials clash over planned closed meeting

I am quoted in the story also:

Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition on Open Government, noted that the state has provided $120 million of taxpayer money toward construction of a new state museum — scheduled to open in December 2018 — with the board overseeing the construction process. There is no exception to the Open Meetings Act for discussion of personnel matters, she said.

“Why would they want to start meeting in secret?” Fisher asked. “Closing meetings is becoming a problem across the state and more officials on governing boards need to start asking questions before they go down that path. It’s not transparent. And it’s certainly not in the spirit of Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act.”

What do you think?