Open Meetings Law Scrutinized

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

The most often invoked exception to Mississippi's open meetings act by some government officials is, "it's a personnel matter."

Put 10 Mississippi government officials or commission appointees in a room and it would be interesting to hear their answers to a quiz on what constitutes a personnel matter.

Section 25-41-7 (4)(a) of Mississippi law narrows the legal definition of personnel matter to "relating to the job performance, character, professional competence or physical or mental health of a person holding a specific position."

Attorney Katherine Kerby of Columbus provides counsel to dozens of government clients and is chairwoman of the Mississippi Bar's section on government law. She said that the Mississippi Open Meetings and Public Records act is simple and straightforward, yet she concedes there are frequent problematic areas.

Enforcement of the state's open meetings act is up to citizens. Unlike when other laws are broken, there is no one, no agency to phone to take action on the public's behalf. And, almost annually, the Mississippi Legislature has adopted more and more exceptions that allow secrecy.


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