My Public Testimony at the City Council Study Session: Press Access to Executive Sessions
Good evening. I’m Dean Silver. I’m the reporter who was illegally denied access to the executive session. The discussion scheduled for tonight is obviously just a solution in search of a problem. Press access to executive sessions is CLEARLY defined in the state statutes and DOJ opinions. The real question is WHY didn’t the city attorney want me to attend?
There is no need for a specific city policy. Anything you might decide upon would NECESSARILY be less restrictive than the state law. Of course you can choose to discuss this, but it’s a non-issue. The city attorney was in error. She MUST know that I am a journalist who writes for an established news outlet. You as a council clearly have far more important, urgent problems to deal with. But I’m glad the question has been raised because this episode highlights two other serious problems that the council needs to deal with: staff overreach and a lack of transparency.
The city attorney imposed what is a non-existent city policy. COUNCIL is tasked with setting policy and giving direction to staff. Of course staff must have the ability to do their jobs without the constant oversight of the council, but they must not exceed their authority. This was not an isolated incident, and is something that the council needs to deal with.
The second and arguably more important problem is the lack of transparency of our city government in general. I personally began examining our city issues when financial data was pulled from the city website last year before the citizens budget committee hearings. Financial data was being deliberately, actively suppressed. That was why I interrupted my retirement to work as an investigative journalist. It was direct evidence that the city was attempting to hide things from the public. It raised questions that demand answers. This is why press scrutiny of our government is so vitally important.
There is no place for these problems in Ashland. Business as usual is not good enough. The city government serves the public. The city government must be accountable to the public. All of its actions should be transparent to the public. Anything less in unacceptable. Thank you.
You can read the agenda item to which I was responding at https://www.ashland.or.us/SIB/files/CC_Media_Access_in_Executive_Sessions_FINAL.pdf
You can read the background leading to this agenda item and comment at https://theashlandchronicle.com/a-not-so-funny-thing-happened-on-my-way-to-the-executive-session/