Twin Falls Council Debates Transparency Resolution

From the Twin Falls Times-News

TWIN FALLS, Idaho • After receiving a complaint over the city’s use of closed subcommittees, Twin Falls City Council members were presented with a second transparency resolution during Monday’s meeting.

The council focused primarily on the resolution’s description of closed subcommittees.

The city’s subcommittees are made up of City Council members, as well as city staffers and private citizens who provide input on finances, contracts and open positions.

Councilwoman Rebecca Mills Sojka attempted to open the subcommittee meetings during a Nov. 12 meeting, but her resolution failed 4-2. One week later, Idahoans for Oppenness in Government submitted a complaint to the Twin Falls County prosecutor’s office over the city’s use of subcommittees.

During Monday’s meeting, Councilman Don Hall said he wished he had more time to consider Mills Sojka’s resolution. Working with Councilman Jim Munn, the two submitted their own resolution, also addressing transparency.

The critical piece of the resolution was in section three, Munn said, which addresses ad hoc volunteer groups.

“The City Council acknowledges that, from time to time, ad hoc volunteer groups may form, without the authority of statute, ordinance, or other legislative act, and without authorization to make decisions or recommendations,” the section reads.

Munn said he would approve the resolution if the council amended this section.

“The question has to be, for us to consider, will no ad hoc volunteer groups form by you or anyone sitting up here?” Munn said.

Councilman Chris Talkington, who voted in favor of Mills Sojka’s resolution two weeks ago, said he was surprised to hear other council members’ change of heart.

“I recall claims we had to use these subcommittees because it’s efficient,” he said. “Now, you’re all supporting the issue for open government. Welcome aboard. … I’m glad to see you were finally wrong.“

Mills Sojka also voiced her support of the resolution.

“The public has a right to know; they have a right to know what’s being discussed,” she said. “I believe this a step in the right direction.“

Mayor Greg Lanting said while he supported the most current resolution, he also pointed out that most of the closed subcommittees were used to select people to open City Council, commission or board positions.

“Every bit of information from the subcommittees has to come back to the public and be vetted in public,” he said.

Councilman Shawn Barigar said after taking two weeks to reflect on the failed transparency resolution, he might have been hasty in his discussion during the meeting.

“I think it was a good opportunity to hear all of the provisions of the Idaho Open Meeting Law,” he said. “I think we all express a willingness to look at these work group activities.“

Councilwoman Suzanne Hawkins said, as the newest council member, she believed citizens have multiple opportunities to learn about how the city works.

“I have nothing to hide,” she said.

The council agreed to make a final decision on the resolution Dec. 2.

From the Twin Falls Times-News

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