Posted 4/05/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
Tioga Mayor Drake McClelland announced Monday night the city will hold a closed meeting to discuss budget cuts, at 6 p.m. on April 11.
McClelland said the reason for closing the meeting to the public is because “everything is on the table for cuts, even personnel.”
However, North Dakota Century Code 44-04-18 does not appear to allow for such a closure and the city attorney -- who was not present at Monday’s meeting -- has yet to weigh in on the plan.
The Century Code defines what records are open to the public and which are exempt from the law.
Exemptions include, among other things, specific information on law enforcement operations, disciplinary actions against specific employees, and matters of litigation.
The law does not provide exemptions for any aspect of city finances, including public employee salaries, all of which are open to the public.
McClelland gave no indication that the topics to be discussed fall under any legal exemptions to the public records or open meetings laws.
Jack McDonald, counsel for the North Dakota Newspaper Association said Tuesday, “There are no exemptions to discuss budget or personnel cuts.”
City Attorney Ben Johnson said Tuesday morning he was unaware of any plans to hold the executive session and would need to look into the matter before commenting.
McClelland also said he will meet privately with Commissioner Todd Thompson on April 6 to discuss the first-quarter financial information prior to the planned executive session on April 11.
McClelland said no action will be taken during the closed session.
By law, any motions arising from the session need to be acted on in an open session.
No one on the commission was aware prior to Monday’s meeting that McClelland was planning to hold the closed meeting.
Commissioner Heather Weflen expressed concern because she will be out of town and unable to attend.
Pending the discussion on April 11, the commission held off on a couple of spending decisions, such as minor repair work on the streets, dust control actions, and spring hours at the city landfill.