School board business is public business.
Filling a vacancy on the school board is public business.
Monday evening, board member Warren Lee said he has issues with the three nominees to fill a vacated board seat but that he did not want to talk about it during the open, public meeting.
Why not, Mr. Lee?
That is exactly where it must be discussed.
When it comes to the public's business, the open public forum is the only right place to have those deliberations.
The public right and need to know must override any other concerns.
To their credit, other members of the school board did not seem ready to go along with Warren Lee on that point, thankfully.
To our knowledge, there has been no backroom, behind the scenes, closed-door session to discuss filling the board vacancy.
Still, the mere suggestion begs the question why would anyone think the open, public school board meeting with the public present after a legally required public notice was published is not the appropriate place to have a full and candid discussion about an important piece of public business?
What could be more in the public interest than filling a position in representative government?
In case there is any doubt on this point, the Georgia Open Meetings Act specifically states, "Meetings by an agency to discuss or take action on the filling of a vacancy in the membership of the agency itself shall at all times be open to the public ...," (O.C.G.A. 50-14-3 (b) (2).
If Mr. Lee has concerns that are not being addressed or if he feels like the vetting of candidates has been inadequate or improper then the public has every right and every need to know.
In addition to open meetings being in the public's best interest, it is also the law in Georgia, and the board of education must comply with the Georgia Open Meetings Act.
Sunshine Laws exist to protect the public.
Any attempt to circumvent those laws is an assault on the public's right to know.
In the past, we have exposed violations of the state's Open Meetings Act and the state's Attorney General has instructed the board of education that it must comply.
Again, to its credit, when the board received clear instructions from the state, while not admitting guilt, they did comply with the requirements of the Open Meetings Act and changed their meeting and disclosure practices.
Now a few years later, why would any member of that same board not want to fully discuss the public's business in the open board meeting?
We urge the BOE and all government agencies in our coverage area to always conduct all the people's business out in front of the people, in open public meetings.