We’re always floored by how far politicians will go to keep the press away from their discussions.
They’ve done it again in Gardner.
Monday morning newly-elected members of the Gardner City Council, Mayor Dave Drovetta, city staff, and Chamber President Steve Devore were invited to tour the Coleman warehouse with Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan.
The Kansas Open Meetings Act was not violated, because Larry Fotovich, Dennis Pugh and Chris Morrow had yet to be sworn in to their new positions on the council. Not only was the press not invited to the tour, we were not notified of the meeting.
We learned of it through our sources, and immediately requested to be included. That request was denied. According to Yoder staff members in Washington, D.C., Coleman officials did not want members of the press in attendance.
His local staff also said the event was organized by the Gardner officials, and they simply showed up to take part.
Whatever the case, elected officials should be leery of meetings in which the press is specifically excluded.
What could have been discussed in such a tour that wouldn’t be of interest to the people of this community? Why shouldn’t the community be represented in such a forum?
The oversight isn’t a matter of law – it’s a matter of ethics, and we question politicians who so willingly go along with such a meeting.
We give the benefit of the doubt to our newly elected officials. They didn’t know the press wasn’t invited.
But we take exception at the Mayor and city staff for organizing such an event under the cover of darkness. We also request that Rep. Kevin Yoder carefully consider attending such meetings in the future whether his staff or others arrange it. He promised not to conduct business as usual in Washington, and we expect him to uphold that standard at home as well.
We have trouble believing that the only thing discussed during the tour was the size of the boxes in the Coleman facility and the green initiatives that went into the building’s construction. City business as well as federal business was also likely on the agenda.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
A free people and her government operate best when bathed in sunshine. It’s time for local officials and their federal counterparts to not just open up the windows, but also the doors. The people demand to be invited in.