City of Bend officials have reminded the city’s Transportation Advisory Committee members they are supposed to conduct their work in public, not in secret.
Committee members needed the reminder, and city staff should extend the reminder to other city committees.
The city took action after we editorialized in June that members of CTAC were conducting a discussion behind the scenes about policy matters. That could be a violation of the state’s open meetings laws.
The CTAC is charged with helping the city come up with a transportation plan for Bend’s future. Louis Capozzi, a member of the committee, emailed six other committee members and one member of the public June 17. He wrote about what he said was the city’s “Transportation Survey Disaster.”
The survey results showed respondents wanted road widening, more lanes and intersection improvements. Some members of the transportation committee want more emphasis on biking, transit and walking. Capozzi called for the committee to reject the survey findings and require that future surveys be submitted to the city in advance. “Those of us who feel (or, more properly, know) that bigger, wider, faster roads aren’t a good solution have now been told we’re in the minority and must simply accept this madness of the crowd as overwhelming,” Capozzi wrote.
What Capozzi wrote is not the issue. He is entitled to his opinion. What matters is that he emailed members of the committee and they engaged in a debate over the policy of CTAC in a decidedly unpublic way.
At the very first meeting of the CTAC committee, city staff told members that policy debates are supposed to be conducted in the open. The reason is simple: The state’s purpose of open meetings could be bypassed by discussions in secret outside of the official meetings. “The Oregon Court of Appeals recently held that a series of communications, some by email and some by phone or in-person conversations, among members of a governing body could constitute a violation of the Oregon Public Meetings Law, even if no communication involved a quorum of the body,” the city wrote in materials provided to committee members.
The city should be applauded for taking action to correct the problem. And it should spread the word to other city committees.