2017-04-13 / Views

On open meetings, road commissioners

Perhaps the Leelanau County Road Commission would be better off with two more members, but we’re not sold on one reason given for the change.

Throughout its history, the county Road Commission has been comprised of three members. Through a combination of forward planning and what must have been election voodoo, road commissioners in Leelanau traditionally have hailed from different corners of the county. The thought was that commissioners had more knowledge of county roads near their home towns, and the commission as a whole was better served by members who run in different social circles.

The trend toward regionalization was only recently broken as no present commissioner lives on the west side of the county. Presumably if the Road Commission were expanded to five members one of the new commissioners would come from Empire, Glen Arbor or nearby points. That makes sense to us, but there is no guarantee.

What doesn’t make sense is a point made by advocates that it’s difficult for three commissioners to fulfill their responsibilities because if two of them go to lunch and discuss the public’s business, the conversation would constitute a violation of the state Open Meetings Act.

So with a five-member Road Commission, should two commissioners meet privately to plot strategy?

The spirit of the act calls for elected officials to hold deliberations at open meetings — whether there are three, five or scores of them.

That’s one reason we have public meetings — for our representatives to discuss options and come to conclusions in a forum open for all to see.

So let’s take the “Open Meetings Act” off the table as a reason to enlarge the Road Commission. The bigger questions — especially for an organization that two years ago created and filled a new manager position — are how much will it cost, and will two more commissioners help in making better decisions?

One question wouldn’t be answered until after the election.

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