School board takes step to shield itself from public spotlight

As more Minnesota politicians try to pull the shades down on their business, a showdown may be brewing over the reach of the state’s open meeting law, which is intended to give citizens a good look at what their representatives are doing.

In Brainerd, the school board last night approved the first reading of a new policy which could make more of its work secret, the Brainerd Dispatch reports today.

The new policy states that meetings of the board’s subcommittees will not be subject to the Open Meeting Law in Minnesota.

“The open meeting law does not apply to committees that are advisory only and do not have decision-making authority,” the policy states.

The newspaper says school board members who don’t sit on the individual committees often show up at the committee meetings, creating a quorum of the full board that would be allowed to operate in secret.

The paper says because the committees are advisory in nature, they’re not subject to the open meeting law.

“There’s no doubt that the board is wrong on this issue—standing committees of a public body are subject to the open meeting law, regardless of the number of committee members,” attorney Mark Anfinson, who specializes in the open meeting law, told the paper.

The open meeting law already has provisions for closed-door meetings when specific items — personnel matters, for example — are to be discussed.

Still unclear in the new policy: why are politicians afraid of doing their business in public?

Related secrecy: Minneapolis scrubs its records to hide location of Super Bowl command center (Star Tribune)