Abuse of executive sessions by municipal officers continues to be a problem for area governments. The latest culprit was the village of Fredonia.
As noted in an editorial Oct. 27 and featured as our "worst" of the week, the village held multiple executive sessions before announcing a $99,000 bill last month for water from the city of Dunkirk. While the bill is embarrassing, it is not a legal matter nor does it involve personnel.
"That's not how open government works," the editorial noted.
But unfortunately for taxpayers, this is not the first time executive sessions have been in question across our region. In April, this corner was critical of the village of Forestville for closing its meeting to the public to discuss salaries.
And while personnel issues fall under proper use of executive sessions, salaries do not. They are public record.
One municipal attorney expressed his displeasure at that time with our questioning of the abundant executive sessions, specifically in Forestville. "I was not present for the Forestville meeting and know none of the parties involved, but it is well possible that the decision to move into executive session was justified," the attorney wrote in an e-mail. "The strident tone of your recent editorials (and even articles, regrettably) regarding public officials is unsettling, particularly when you often don't have a complete understanding of the subject yourself."
I offer no apology for questioning boards - or attorneys - who allow the questionable sessions.
Besides, there is no consequence or penalty for any board or official who holds or is part of an illegal executive session. Consider:
Will elected officials be charged or arrested by the local police? Of course not.
Will they be fined? That's unlikely.
Will they lose their positions? Only in elections.
So whatever criticism this newspaper offers, that is likely to be the only penalty boards or the members will face.
On the other hand, the municipal attorney - such as the one quoted earlier - is likely to disagree with our opinion. In the process of doing so, this justifies their job, which pads the wages he or she receives from the taxpayers who are left in the dark while those illegal sessions take place.
Anyone else see a conflict of interest there?
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.