The Board of Municipal Utilities chose to interview candidates to fill a vacancy on the elected board in executive session despite listing the interviews under the open session of the board meeting’s publicly available agenda.
Acting Chairman John Dzwonczyk began the discussion by asking the other present board members, Randy Philips and Tim Rush, whether the board should move the interviews into executive session. Public bodies are allowed to enter these closed-door sessions to discuss the appointment of public officials, which include elected officials.
Philips said it’s a personnel matter, so the board could legally go into executive session.
“There could be sensitive personal questions that are asked of these people, and I’m not so sure they would like it to be part of public record,” he said. “I think it’s appropriate. It is one of the reasons that you can go into executive session, is to consider the employment of individuals. And I think we’ve got that situation here.”
Another issue the board considered was whether having candidates sit through the interviews of another candidate would give an unfair advantage. By having the interviews in open session, Philips said, the candidates could exercise their right to attend a public meeting and sit through all the interviews. If the board asked the other candidates to sit outside during the interviews of the other candidates, he said, that would put them in an awkward position.
During this discussion, the reporter for The Press objected to the board considering going into executive session. While not disputing the legal right to do so, the reporter pointed out the meeting agenda told the public the board would conduct the interviews in open session as well as Chief Utilities Executive Todd Danielson previously telling The Press (seen in the March 26, 2014, edition) the interviews would be done in public.