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The case for evening meetings

By Scott Tibbs, August 14, 2013

Doug Masson's response to my editorial at HoosierAccess.com brings up familiar arguments, but the case for having "public" meetings when the public can actually attend remains strong.

It may well be that evening meetings do not significantly increase attendance, but that is not a reason to have meetings during the work day. The vast majority of the public will not access public records, but that does not mean we should repeal or significantly restrict access to public records. The point is that the public should be able to attend public meetings, not that they will attend those meetings in greater numbers. There are some people who cannot attend meetings who would if they were held at an accessible time.

As far as increased cost to government, overtime costs can be reduced by using flex time or shifting work schedules. Employees who are classified as "exempt" under FLSA do not get paid overtime, and employees who would be paid overtime can take other time off during the week, either before or after the public meeting in question. People who work in retail have been used to having wildly different hours for decades in order to make sure stores are staffed at all times, so there is no reason flex time or staggered schedules cannot be implemented by government.

As to this statement:

Finally, I tend to oppose the State telling local government how to run its business.

State government already has a number of controls on local government. Local government is audited by the state to ensure compliance with financial regulations and local government must comply with open-records rules. In fairness, Masson obviously knows this. The legitimate point he raises is how much control state government should have over the operation of local government and what should instead be decided under the banner of home rule. This is one area where more state control over local government would be justified.

Previous editorials:

Government meeting times need to change.

Commissioners' meeting times need to change, Part II.

Commissioners' meeting times need to change, Part III.

Commissioners' meeting times need to change, Part IV.