If you want to keep politics out of $100 million decisions, you don’t do it by closing doors to the public.

Government may not always work the most efficiently with public involvement and public input, but they certainly protect public interests best.

Some Muskogee officials propose selecting a community foundation board by a closed process.

According to bylaws adopted this month by the City Council, each council member will nominate three foundation board candidates, and the nine councilors will select nine of the 27 to serve on the foundation board.

Those nine, along with the city manager, mayor and two city councilors, will form the board that decides how the interest, about $5 million annually, from the $100 million lease of Muskogee Regional Medical Center will be spent.

The council proposes that the board interviews be conducted in small committees and not before the entire council.

According to a Phoenix story, Councilor Janey Cagle Boydston opposed public interviews, stating, “If you have lived in this town for any period of time and have been paying attention, you will know who these people are.”

The council certainly will want to choose people active in and knowledgeable about the community, and perhaps, most people in Muskogee will recognize the names of the candidates.

But a closed-door policy reeks of political favoritism and councilors stacking the board to see that the projects they want funded are funded.

That’s why the council should hold the interview process before the entire council and the public.

The quickest way to raise suspicions and divide a community is for its governmental body to make decisions in private.

Some officials will complain that few in the public don’t come to City Council meetings now.

But that’s not the issue.

The issue is open government — a transparent council, which after a decision is made can refer to its public record and not have to spend its time dispelling rumor and denying corruption.

React to this story:


Recommended for you