Greene County Industrial Development Board members were not using microphones, and sat at a table where some had backs to the public. Throwing out, cuffing and arresting someone who asked them to speak louder so people in the back could hear? Not exactly the spirit of the Open Meetings Act.
Details are in The Greeneville Sun’s story this morning.
Here is yesterday’s post that included video of the incident.
Citizens may not have heard all the deliberations, but they certainly heard the message from Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles who ordered the removal.
UPDATE July 22, 2014: WJHL in Johnson City reported that the Office of Open Records Counsel as of yesterday had received at least 42 Open Meetings complaints. Many citizens may not realize they can file a complaint with the OORC. Her opinion doesn’t have the force of law, but she will look into the complaint and based on her understanding, will contact the governing entity if she thinks a violation may have occurred.
I know several people are upset that they didn’t get to speak at the Greene County Industrial Development Board public meeting. As far as our Open Meetings laws, they don’t secure a right to participate in an open meeting. But a key open government issue in this case is the responsibility of the board — or any governing body — to ensure that its public meetings are audible to the citizens attending. In other words, is access to a meeting essentially “denied” if a governing body holds a public meeting but does not speak loud enough or use microphones, or otherwise make sure their deliberations can be heard? This is an important question in the situation in Greene County, but also for all public meetings held in Tennessee.
TCOG believes that governing bodies do have that responsibility to ensure their deliberations in a public meeting are audible. And that anything otherwise would be contrary to the spirit and the purpose of the Open Meetings Act.
Here is the latest Greeneville Sun story in which Mr. Overholt explains his treatment in police custody.