McGee pushes for councilors to attend executive sessions of boards, commissions

A city councilor who believes more transparency is needed for some boards and commissions will get a second chance on Monday to recruit support from her colleagues.   

Ward IV Councilor Traci McGee will present an ordinance that would allow city councilors to sit in during executive session of boards and commissions over which they have authority. Councilors would be allowed to attend by virtue of holding an elected office — they would have no authority to dictate the outcome of a vote on a matter discussed during an executive session. 

The proposed ordinance died after it failed to win the support of a second councilor. There was little debate, although the few who spoke during the committee meeting expressed a level of skepticism, saying there might be other options but declined to say what those might be. 

McGee said she plans "to keep fighting to know what's going on with our boards and commissions." She said if a councilor has information that should be considered before a decision is made, they should have an opportunity to share that information during an executive session of a city board that operates under council authority. 

"They know these boards are bad, and they have issues, they just don't want it to be known what it is," McGee said. "These council people up here right now do not — and I say again, do not — want Traci McGee to go to any executive session of any board or commission." 

McGee said she was asked to remove the proposed ordinance from the agenda by her colleagues. Those requests, she said, raised even more suspicions, "and it just doesn't smell good and just doesn't look good."

The Ward IV councilor, who was elected to her first term in February 2020, said she took steps to move the proposed ordinance forward after attending a Muskogee Urban Renewal Authority meeting earlier this year. She asked to present information during an executive session convened to discuss economic development in the northwest quadrant of the city. 

McGee said that request was rebuffed. Minutes of that meeting show Chairman Bob Coburn told trustees "he believed it more appropriate to permit Councilor McGee to make a statement to the Authority, rather than be better to attend executive session." 

Being "shut out" by an entity that might engage in activity she and other councilors may be subject to legal liability didn't sit right. McGee, citing the revelation of ethics complaints filed against three city councilors stemming from their service on a city trust, said if the members of a city board or commission "do some crazy thing" and she can be held liable, there must be more transparency.

Deputy Mayor Derrick Reed cautioned against council interference in the work of boards and commissions. He said the council often has final approval of most actions taken, and the presence of councilors during board meetings might intimidate appointees who volunteer their time. 

"We are seeing there needs to be policies set for all boards and commissions — we need to make some fixes," Reed said. "We fill those positions with people who give citizens a voice on those boards, but the final decision usually comes to the council."

McGee said she was surprised by the inaction of her colleagues. While they asked to pull the agenda item, she said they were silent about their plans to provide no support or opportunity for a vote on the measure. 

"We are supposed to be a team," McGee said. "But nobody had the decency to come to me and tell me they were going to let this die."

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