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Burriss on Media: Open Meetings


MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BURRISS)  --  It’s amazing sometimes how what we think of as obscure laws can have such unforeseen consequences. For example, all of a sudden the Tennessee Open Meeting law is in the news, with some unexpected results.

The Tennessee Open Meeting Law specifies that almost all government meetings have to have a public announcement. More importantly, for our purposes, the law also specifies that any actions taken at an unannounced meeting are invalid. We usually think that applies to meetings involving things like tax increases and major construction proposals such as shopping malls.

But according to critics, the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission violated the law when it approved construction of a mosque at the May 2010 meeting. The question recently facing Chancellor Robert Corlew was whether or not announcements about the meeting appeared as a public notice. Last week he ruled it did not.

So now mosque construction may or may not be on hold. But at the same meeting the commission also approved construction of a storage unit, a fire hydrant waiver and proposed changes in sign regulations. And now those actions are also called into question

So here’s where the law of unintended consequences come into play. The legality of the storage unit now comes into question, as do all of the other actions the commission took. And since all of the actions involve property, the side-effects could rapidly escalate.

All of those people who said they were only concerned about the open meeting apparently didn’t seem to have any problem with the Planning Commission approving a storage unit at the supposedly unannounced meeting. I wonder if they want the storage unit shut down? You don’t think they really had something else in mind do you? Like being single-mindedly opposed to the mosque? What was your first clue?

I’m Larry Burriss