Article Comment 

Our View: The public's right to know

 

 

In other states, personnel records such as like disciplinary action are open when it comes to public bodies. And meetings to discuss those items are held in open session. 

 

In Mississippi, where sunshine laws are shadowy, to say the least, boards have the option to (and often do) withhold this information. Boards often enter into closed sessions to discuss personnel matters, and when they let the public back in, they don''t offer any explanation of what action might have been taken. 

 

Such has been the case with recently suspended Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John. 

 

The open-records and open-meetings laws in this state offer governing bodies ample opportunity to discuss and make decisions in closed session. 

 

And aside from salaries, there is little, if any, personnel information public boards are required to disclose. 

 

Mayor Robert Smith has placed St. John on paid administrative leave, and he and the City Council have chosen to keep the taxpayers in the dark about why. Mr. Mayor and City Council, we the taxpayers have a right to know why our head law enforcement officer is on a mandated hiatus. 

 

Even under cloudy sunshine laws, public officials can choose to be open to the public they serve. 

 

In this case, they certainly should. 

 

At the close of 2008 and opening of 2009, St. John took a leave of absence, reportedly struggling with a drinking problem. On June 17, St. John called in sick for a Civil Service Commission hearing, where two officers were appealing their 20-day suspensions. St. John chose not to divulge his illness, but city officials have said he did test positive for alcohol. 

 

The chief of police is a very public position. Of local officials, St. John has been among the most visible and accessible, to the media and the general public. 

 

He''s been the people''s chief, in every sense of the phrase. 

 

It''s time to let the people know what''s going on.

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment pat henry commented at 7/13/2011 10:53:00 PM:

You water boys are working overtime. Why not have a St. John Defense Fund Keg Party? Maybe Birney can make meade with his honey, and everyone can take the big, red bus to the million dollar rusty bridge to nowhere. At that point St. John can swig a beer while in uniform and pay with his band. Birney, why don't you and the gang report the news, instead of inserting yourselves into it.

 

Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 7/15/2011 8:09:00 AM:

Pat, you ole toad you, that would be like journalism and that most certainly isn't what this paper is all about, no sir.

This paper is the steering wheel to the rusted out Pinto that is Columbus.

"Report the news"....OMG, you made me piss myself.....

 

Article Comment t99ntw commented at 7/18/2011 8:57:00 AM:

Whats going on with the city school system.rumor has it that Del Phillips all but broke the schools thats why he all of A sudden left.
The school board allowed him to spend A lot of money on trees he had planted at the schools now the budget is in limbo.they don't have contracts for their support staff like coustodian,grounds keeper,ect where is the money.maybe the someone should take A closer look at the school board.its A lot going on behind close doors that the public need to know.

 

Article Comment t99ntw commented at 7/18/2011 8:58:00 AM:

Whats going on with the city school system.rumor has it that Del Phillips all but broke the schools thats why he all of A sudden left.
The school board allowed him to spend A lot of money on trees he had planted at the schools now the budget is in limbo.they don't have contracts for their support staff like coustodian,grounds keeper,ect where is the money.maybe the someone should take A closer look at the school board.its A lot going on behind close doors that the public need to know.

 

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