Opinion: What some have called Beavercreek City Council’s “shadowy” meetings may have been brought into the light last night. The January 28th City Council meeting saw tempers raised, some yelling and disorder. Some of it was about the issue before them, an ordinance, but it also may have been about something else… this stuff is not supposed to happen in front of the cameras.

So what is this “shadowy” meeting system that many claim exists? Basically, the argument is that through “work sessions” and “retreats” City Council has found a way to discuss and debate the issues far from the cameras and somewhat out of public view. In the case of “retreats” the discussion can even take place far from the city government building. Sometimes they are at the golf course or, most recently, at the Public Works building on Orchard Lane.

“The lack of coverage
by cameras, strange
meeting times and
locations often leaves
many residents in the
dark.”

– Beavercreek Record

While it’s true these meetings are open to the public, the lack of coverage by cameras, strange meeting times and locations often leaves many residents in the dark. The most recent retreat on January 21 occurred at 8:30 am in the morning. It also occurred at the Public Works building on Orchard Lane. It had an agenda that consisted of only one specific item, a general reference to “strategic vision” review and development.

The city’s media policy prevents any real decisions from being made at these “work sessions” and “retreats” when cameras are not running, but many wonder if council members are reaching some sort of consensus through the discussions that take place there. Then, when the regular meeting occurs and the cameras are running, they wonder if it’s nothing more than just paint by numbers.

The questions they raise are these: Are these un-televised meetings held at odd times in various locations preventing the public easy access? Does the public miss out on critical debate and discussion necessary to really understand the issues? Opponents of these types of meetings say yes. What took place at the January 28th City Council meeting would support that view.

During the dust-up at that meeting, many residents were able to experience this first-hand when council member Jarrod Martin said, “I don’t know why we had the long diatribe from Mr. Hadley. We discussed this in detail at our retreat. As a matter of fact we spent two and a half hours on it.”

“Beavercreek has
stopped publishing the
minutes from “retreats”
and “work sessions” on
their website.”

– Beavercreek Record

That’s two and a half hours that the public will never see. If they’re lucky they may read about it as a one line description in minutes published months later. Then again, maybe not. Beavercreek has stopped publishing the minutes from “retreats” and “work sessions” on their website. That change coincided with City Manager Mike Cornell taking the helm at the beginning of 2007.

To read minutes from “retreats” and “work sessions” a person would have to go to 2006 or years prior. There are none published at the website from 2007. We seem to be suddenly getting less information, not more.

So are resident’s ending up with a santized view of their city government? It sure looks that way. And when somebody like council member Scott Hadley goes off script, things can quickly degenerate into what we saw at the January 28th City Council meeting. Was the anger and frustration we saw that night about the issue at hand, or was it about someone breaking ranks and taking the debate on an issue out of the shadows. From the looks of things, it may have been about both.

During the debate at the January 28th City Council meeting, nearly every council member referenced the “retreat” and the discussion that took place there. Essentially they were saying “Hey… we’ve already discussed this.” Too bad we’ll never really know what they were talking about.



“By taking the real
debate and discussion
on the issues away from
the regular meetings,
City Council only fosters
ignorance of the issues.”

– Beavercreek Record



It’s also truly sad to see Jarrod Martin, long regarded as one of Beavercreek’s champions of ethics in government, talk so openly about a discussion that took place at one of these “shadowy” meetings and object to it being brought up during City Council’s regular meeting. Perhaps he is unaware that the minutes from the meeting will probably never be published on the city’s website. Maybe he doesn’t realize that by taking the real debate and discussion on the issues away from the regular meetings, City Council only fosters ignorance of the issues.

Then again, they really didn’t talk about much if the agenda is to be believed. What was on the agenda for that meeting? Printed below is a copy of what the public saw. Strange how the two hour discussion Martin talked about didn’t even rate high enough for an agenda item. But then again, does it really matter… nobody’s looking anyway. Did it even really happen? We may never know. The answer lies in the shadows.

BEAVERCREEK CITY COUNCIL
Retreat January 21, 2008, 8:30 a.m.
Public Service Conference Room

I. CALL TO ORDER
II. ROLL CALL
III. APPROVAL OF AGENDA
IV. DISSCUSSION ITEMS
  A. Short/Long Term Strategic Vision Review/ Development
V. ADJOURNMENT

The Beavercreek Record invites opinions on this issue from all current and former members of Beavercreek City Council and residents of the City of Beavercreek.
Email your comments to beavercreekrecord@sbcglobal.net or use our online submission form. Include your first and last name please. If published, we will only use your first name and last initial in print.

OPBR20080129-02