Archive for March 9th, 2009

Star covers open meetings issue at JCCC

Monday, March 9th, 2009

A more-or-less fair article by Jim Sullinger.  The article doesn’t make absolutely clear that Trustee Benjamin Hodge did not ask for budget detail during executive session.  It says: “Shortly before Calaway’s job performance evaluation, trustee Benjamin Hodge asked Calaway how he would address the declining revenue picture without raising taxes.”  In actuality, it was days before that Hodge had asked for detail on budget plans.

The story became a larger issue after JCCC President Dr. Terry Calaway criticized Hodge for releasing budget information, criticized Sullinger’s reporting, and attempted to publicly justify a very broad — some say illegal — interpretation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

Mike Merriam, an attorney for the Kansas Press Association and an expert on the open meetings act, said Friday that bringing up the budget material under the personnel exception was inappropriate in his opinion.

“These budget issues should not have been discussed as part of the evaluation,” he said, adding that the topics should have been handled separately.

The Kansas attorney general has said that meetings can be closed to discuss personnel only when the discussion applies to individuals, rather than groups that might be affected by a policy.

One week after the meeting, Hodge released the list at the request of a reporter for The Kansas City Star. Its existence and some of its contents were reported in the Prime Buzz section of the newspaper’s Web site.

Calaway then sent an e-mail to the college staff criticizing the release of the list.

Hodge said the list focused on pending budget issues and should be shared with the public.