Interesting sidenote at day 912 (o.k., not really) of CIETC hearings at the Statehouse. The Govt Oversight Committee adjourned (or at least republican Senator Ron Wieck announced the meeting adjourned). Then they kicked us out (media and spectators...o.k., there weren't really many spectators). They told us they were meeting with their legal counsel.
You'll recall there are three different legal counsels helping with the CIETC stuff. Tim Higgins from the Des Moines Register (and a fellow Mizzou alum, I might add...M-I-Z-Z-O-U) and I protested. We didn't see why the meeting needed to be closed. Sen. Wieck said, technically, it wasn't a meeting, since the committee adjourned. So we asked, "then why should you close it, if it's not a meeting?"
He called in the legislature's legal expert. He told us the legislature's not bound by Open Meetings laws (Senator Wieck was actually incredibly polite about all of this and seemed very willing to find an amicable solution to it all). Legal dude cited "attorney-client privilege". We got booted.
Afterwards, I'm still not sure whether we should have gotten kicked out or what real "legal" advice legislators received after we got shown the door. Truth be told, I'm not sure who's right in this situation. But it's important to make public servants accountable to laws and openness in government (I hope my old journalism prof's read this:)
I just got this release from Senate dems...
Oversight Co-Chair: Secret meetings are wrong approach to cleaning up CIETC scandal
Statement by State Senator Tom Courtney, Democratic Co-Chair of the Senate Oversight Committee
"I'm concerned that the effort to investigate the CIETC scandal and to prevent further abuses of the public trust may be in danger of collapsing. My concerns come from statements made by Republican Senators in today's unnecessary and secret session of the Oversight Committee."
"Republicans kept the public and the news media out of the room for more than an hour while we discussed the future of our investigation. I opposed the secret session because the public deserves to know how we intend to proceed with this investigation, how much it will cost, and how we intend to achieve our top goals: holding the wrongdoers accountable and passing additional protections to ensure that it never happens again."
"I strongly believe that relying on secrecy and lack of public disclosure is the wrong way to investigate a scandal created by secrecy and lack of public disclosure."
Open the door.