© 2013 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

The Montana Open Meeting Law  begins with the following statement:

2-3-201. Legislative intent — liberal construction. The legislature  finds and declares that public boards, commissions, councils, and other public agencies in this state exist to aid in the conduct of the peoples’ business. It is the intent of this part that actions and deliberations of all public agencies shall be conducted openly. The people of the state do not wish to abdicate their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. Toward these ends, the provisions of the part shall be liberally construed.

SO WHY IS THIS BACKGROUND INFORMATION IMPORTANT?

Interim FJBC Meeting Policy  – At the joint board meeting Monday, commissioner Paul Wadsworth, Mission District, distributed a proposal for a new meeting policy.  When pressed on it, the board attorney said he’d review a couple of aspects of the document and advise the board.  Mr. Wadsworth stated they had to “get control” of these meetings somehow:

Meetings shall be open to the public except for executive sessions to discuss personnel or litigation issues. Any person wishing to present a complaint, comment, or any other matter to the FJBC Board must request to do so to any FJBC Board member or the Chairman at least seven days prior to the meeting.  The request must include a written description of the matter to be brought forth.  Requests for placement on the FJBC meeting agenda are subject to board approval at each meeting.  Complaints involving the FIIP manager or comments delivered to FJBC board members will be given to the FIIP Manager by the FJBC board member at least seven days prior to the meeting.  Public comment may be restricted to written comment delivered to the FJBC within seven calendar days following the meeting the comments are directed to.  No cameras or recording devices shall be allowed in FJBC meetings without approval of the FJBC Board.

On Wednesday, the CME board followed suit, and voted for the same policy at their meeting, and immediately began enforcing it by shutting down recording and public comments.  This should raise quite a few eyebrows, and alot of questions:

  • Was the new policy approved by the Joint Board’s attorney?
  • Is it in compliance with Montana’s open meeting laws?
  • Who wrote it?
  • Why was this policy introduced, aside from the obvious desire to stifle irrigator and public comments?
  • Could it be a preemptive act to stifle public comment at some future meeting of the board to illegally vote to pass the FIP Water Use Agreement?

We attend the board meetings and have observed public comments and participation as being respectful and orderly.  Unless the commission can site a specific instance where they think things have gotten out of control, we haven’t seen it.

Do your homework and decide what’s going on.  Let your joint board commissioners know what you think before the FJBC moves on it at the next meeting.

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