What we think: Commission must operate in sunshine

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By The Staff

Attorney General Jack Conway’s ruling last week that Triple S Planning & Zoning Commission had operated in violation of the state’s open-meetings law is a troubling revelation.

Disputes about meetings and public notifications are routine. Journalists and special-interest groups keep watch, and they sometimes blow the whistle about whether the law is being followed.

As often as not, the whistle either is not heard or deemed off-key, and the agency is off the hook.

But what had appeared a rather simple disagreement between the activist organization Maintain Our Rural Environment (MORE) and Triple S – a written exchange of complaints and excuses – became an actual finding: The commission was not in compliance with the law.

MORE blew that whistle, and it was heard rather distinctly.

And as citizens we have to be bothered by that.

We expect to know what our government agencies are doing at all times. We expect information about agendas, meeting times and decisions to be available upon request.

News organizations follow those procedures for the public, to ensure that the information flows and that we all are informed. But not every nuance is obvious.

The complaint about Triple S may seem to be a fine point – because it deals with the comprehensive plan and not the week-to-week business of the commission – but it provides a brightly blinking caution light for everything that may happen in the future.

As Shelby County becomes more aggressive in luring new industry and development and the zoning changes that go along with them, Triple S will be the filter for all decisions. We must be able, as citizens, to trust those serving on that commission to keep us informed and to follow the letter of the law. No backroom conversations can become part of the process.

And along with that blinking light also comes a spotlight: From now on, we’ll be watching very closely.