As they do every year, the Converse County Commissioners recently split up state grant money – about $1.5 million in total – among the county, City of Douglas and towns of Glenrock, Rolling Hills and Lost Springs. This year, however, the Town of Glenrock was absent from the meeting . . . and some officials say that is because they did not know it was even happening.
Neither did we.
Basically, the county failed to notify anyone about the meeting through formal channels like public notices in the newspapers or press releases to the media, but the county officials did tell each entity informally through phone calls or emails and even went so far as to call Glenrock Mayor Doug Frank directly before starting the meeting to make sure he would attend. Frank didn’t show up. That’s on him, not the county.
However, the county hadn’t intended the annual “consensus” meeting for the SLIB funds to be a true public meeting. It was supposed to be more of a work session without a majority of any elected body present. While it was still open to the public, by being the work session without a majority, the county technically did not violate the state’s open meetings law. Unintentionally, though, a majority of the Douglas City Council and Converse County Commission showed up at the meeting, which turned it into a public meeting that did violate the law. Representatives of the other communities also attended.
And while no formal votes are taken at the consensus meeting, the officials there do make decisions about how to split up the money among the county and municipalities. That alone means the county should do whatever it takes to keep the process open and above board.
We do not believe the county intentionally tried to hide anything, but to be fair and transparent, the commissioners rightfully are opting to take a Mulligan and redo the entire meeting. That is the right thing to do in this case so Glenrock and everyone can state their cases for funds and the public can know what is going on.
–– Matt Adelman