A brief discussion at the Surfside Beach town council meeting Tuesday night spoke volumes about problems in that town.
Councilmember Tim Courtney suggested that the council take minutes of its executive sessions. This would be very unprecedented, but at least a step in the right direction of letting at least a little sunshine in to the town.
Executive sessions are secret meetings that councils and boards hold behind closed doors away from the public. By law, the topics to be discussed in these secret meetings are to be disclosed beforehand and no other topics are supposed to be discussed in the meeting.
Recently, one of the council’s secret meetings was openly taped and was eye-opening, to say the least; especially the topics being discussed.
For years, the Surfside Beach council has used executive sessions far more than most of the governing bodies in this area. And until recently, they have not followed the letter of the Freedom of Information Act law when going into these meetings.
At least now, the council is more specific in the proposed topics to be discussed rather than just using the blanket “personnel” or “legal advice” excuse.
As recent as last month, the town attorney told the council not to use executive sessions so extensively. But that advice fell on deaf ears apparently.
Tuesday night during this discussion, several councilmembers defended the use of executive sessions and also criticized the idea of taking minutes.
Their comments ranged from “it would restrict councilmembers interaction with each other” to “it would defeat the purpose of the executive session. Everyone would know what we’re talking about.”
And that’s the entire problem in a nutshell.
Everyone needs to know what you’re talking about. You are elected officials who are the stewards of the taxpayers’ money and the wellbeing of the town.
Some of the councilmembers have been testy lately about criticism from constituents and suggesting false information has been spread around about them.
It’s very simple.
When people are in the dark, it’s hard for them to see what’s actually going on and that can lead to conspiracies and rumors whether true or unfounded.
Let the sunshine in to Surfside Beach.
It’s time to do what’s right and in the open.