The front page article in The Sanford Herald today, “Council Debates Agenda Deadlines,” had an unfortunate error that could leave readers with the wrong impression. To be fair, after the long discussion on the issue, I could see how this misunderstanding could have happened.
The story stated, “The agendas are currently completed by 10 a.m. on the Mondays prior to the Law and Finance Committee meetings but are not made public until the council members receive them at the meetings.” This is incorrect.
The cut off for submitting items for the Law & Finance agenda is 10 a.m. on Mondays. This material must then be compiled, organized, and tweaked by the city clerk. Then reviewed by the city manager and city attorney, before the final multiple copies are printed. Items are sometimes being worked on and finalized the morning of the meeting.
It should be noted that the original request from Councilman Taylor was to have an agenda ready by Monday morning before the Wednesday meeting. If an agenda is prepared for distribution on Monday, it must be available for the media, the public, and the council at that time. (See August 28th post titled City Meetings, Agandas, etc.”)
Below is The Herald article in its entirety.
Council Debates Agenda Deadlines City votes to not enforce deadlines before Law and Finance meetings
By GORDON ANDERSON
SANFORD — Members of the Sanford City Council argued Tuesday about whether to publicly release the agenda for their bi-weekly Law and Finance Committee meetings earlier.
By a vote of 5-2, with councilmen Mike Stone and Charles Taylor dissenting, the council voted to continue making the agendas available the day of the meetings, at which council members discuss issues that will arise at regular meetings but do not take votes. Taylor had asked for the agendas to be made available two days before the meetings take place.
The agendas are currently completed by 10 a.m. on the Mondays prior to the Law and Finance Committee meetings but are not made public
until the council members receive them at the meetings.
Councilman Steve Brewer said he was opposed to making the agendas public before the meetings because he wanted to be prepared to answer any questions if his constituents call him about the issues.
“I don’t want people calling me and asking me questions about something that I haven’t heard anything about,” he said, explaining that if the agendas were made public prior to the meetings, the media could potentially write stories about upcoming issues that council members hadn’t been able to learn about yet. “When are you going to start your information process? As far as I can tell, Law and Finance meetings are the beginning of that process.”
Stone said he didn’t care if the media learned about council issues before the meetings.
“My purpose in city government is getting information to the people,” he said. “I could care less if the media gets (the agendas). So what? The media’s job is also to get information out to the public.”
In other business, the council voted to:
■ Permanently close a portion of Martin Street that is currently unused.
■ Award an administrative services contract worth $ 7,000 to Hobbs and Upchurch, a Southern Pines-based civil engineering and surveying firm, for services related to an upcoming capital project.
■ Approve the building of a new subdivision called Barrington Park along N.C. 87 at Commerce Drive. The subdivision will be a residential-combill.
If you have any questions concerning this issue please call Steve Brewer at 919-770-9587.