Precedent being set not far from us on open government

It isn’t our turf. It isn’t our market.
But the message is right on target for every level of government. This week, Clarksburg’s City Council will host a special meeting to begin determining its city manager’s fate.
This meeting comes on the heels of the city manager seeking some kind of voluntary leave or buyout after 14 years on his job.
His dissatisfaction apparently is a result of several new members being elected to the seven-member council in the city’s municipal election in June.
To the newly elected mayor’s credit, who is appointed by council’s members, he is seeking to not only put this matter to rest in a timely way, but also an open one.
The mayor has called for a public meeting Thursday to give the public a chance to discuss the city manager’s job performance.
Also on that meeting’s agenda is a resolution to suspend the city manager with pay for 30 days in anticipation of termination. If passed, a city clerk will serve as interim city manager.
Thirty days later, the council will itself debate the city manager’s status and then vote in open session to either retain him or release him from his contract.
As a rule, matters such as this are taken up behind closed doors in too many municipal, county, legislative and federal bodies of government.
That’s no condemnation of the executive session process. It’s necessary in many circumstances, such as medical reasons, personal matters, disciplinary measures.
But over the years, all too often this process is abused to spare knowledge of someone’s mistake, their embarrassment or simply over a disagreement.
Our newspaper has championed openness and transparency in government for decades and has continued to insist the more, the better.
This is no commentary or opinion on which direction this council should go in deciding its city manager’s future.
Instead, we are only acknowledging a breath of fresh air in how local government should operate in our state or any state. Public input, whether it’s on or off the mark, should be welcomed while public officials voting in back rooms should be turned away.
Matters like this are best brought to light rather than left to fester or decided in a manner that is secretive and results in more questions than answers.
We have no real prior knowledge about how things operated in the past in Clarksburg’s municipal government.
Depending on who you ask, there are probably even more than two sides to that story.
But it appears this council is setting a precedent it and others will find harder to ignore in the future.

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