February 24, 2015: The Night Lake Elmo Lost Its Voice
Over the last term our city has seen many disappointing issues regarding transparency come forth. When the council majority took office they administratively stopped recording every meeting not required by law, almost immediately. The council majority had stopped the recording and/or broadcasting of our City Council Workshops, Parks commission meetings, human resource, environmental, public safety, and finance committee meetings. Six weeks later Justin and Mayor Pearson pushed the issue with two council motions to restore the transparency which was lost. Justin asked the council to require all city meeting, open to the public be recorded.
Mayor Pearson also asked any government entity using Lake Elmo City Hall for a public meeting, be required to record their meetings. This was designed to force the Valley Branch watershed district, a governmental organization responsible of millions of your tax dollars to be transparent.
In two staggering 3-2 decisions Lake Elmo lost it's voice and its checks and balances that Tuesday in February. The council majority took an affirmative position against allowing you to see what happens within your government.
Council Majority Writes Staff Reports
One of the most disconcerting issues which has taken place over the past two years is the council majority's insistence on writing staff reports. We have a highly educated, professional, and driven staff; hired to give their professional opinion. The council may decide to agree or disagree with the staff opinion, but it should be their opinion to give without fear of retaliation, retribution, or intimidation. Furthermore a functional council should expect a non biased staff report to allow the council members and residents all sides of an issue. If a council member has a differing opinion from staffs, you simply have the courage of your convictions and disagree. YOU DO NOT DEMAND TO PASS OFF A STAFF REPORT AS YOUR OWN.
In the fall of 2015 the 2016 budget was passed without the Mayor, Justin, or the public ever seeing the document. The first unveiling was at the council meeting that evening. It had been crafted at a commission level where council members were kept away due to open meeting law rules. Although the council majority made claims to the press all council members were allowed to attend, the committees used open meeting notices to keep Justin and the mayor away. No detailed minutes, audio or video recordings were available for public consumption.
Restricting the public and council from seeing financial documents
Later that fall, against staff recommendation and deemed illegal by the office of administrative hearings, the council passed an ordinance, still on the books denying access to financial documents. These documents are public information and available to all. The ordinance directed any document the finance director deemed privileged be protected. Even after the courts addressed this specific issue your city has illegal ordinances on the books, which this council refuses to remove. Please note who wrote the "Staff Report"
If re-elected Justin promises to continue to fight for your right as tax payers and citizens to see what your government is doing with your tax dollars and how your government is conducting its business. This is the corner stone of our American democracy.
Speak the truth. Transparency breeds legitimacy.
Lake Elmo City Council