When we were kids, we sometimes did things we hoped our parents would not discover. We normally did it while they were away, or in the playhouse. At least we shut our bedroom doors.
Maybe some of the things we did were not so bad, but doing them in secret added a certain spice to the whole thing. Most of us never burned the house down, poked our eyes out, or injured our younger siblings.
As grown-ups, we see other adults preferring to do some things in secret. Government officials, particularly, like to make deals and spend money with a dearth of oversight. They say they are not ashamed, they just have “reasons”
to not want you to know what they are up to.
For instance, down in Deltona, they recently had a secret City Commission meeting. Well, it was not a complete secret: There was a crowd outside trying to get in, but the doors were locked.
There can be problems with deals made in secret. For instance, if someone is sore, they can have the action unwound because of the Sunshine violation. A worse problem is politicians spending other people’s money like it
was other people’s money, while not allowing anyone to watch.
Sure, there are establishments in Nevada where you might prefer to do that. And I remember some years ago when Mayor Mulder let the city pick up his bar tab. We called it “Grey Goosing” the budget. They did not invite the public to watch that, either.
The secret meeting minutes are pretty good. The public were not allowed in, and under public comment, the minutes say “Mayor Herzberg stated there are no public comments.”
Having locked the audience out, they explain the consent agenda: “If anyone in the audience wishes to address a particular item on the consent agenda, now is the opportunity for you to do so.”
It looks bad when they act in secret. The first thing they did was to approve a replat, allowing another dollar store on septic. They may be unaware that secrecy can taint the proceedings.
Most likely, they expect that no one will be sore enough to overturn the action in court. On the other hand, you might guess what the Deltona city manager and commission are thinking — it is better to do this in secret, so people do not laugh when they call it “economic development.”
— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.