Ardmore's trust and authority board members had the opportunity to take part in Open Meeting Act and Open Record Act training Wednesday afternoon in the city commission chambers.
The training session was conducted by David Weatherford of Municipal Consultants, LLC, and was voluntary for all board members. The session was also presented to the city commission eight months ago. The Ardmore Main Street Authority boasted the highest level of participation, with eight members, and an estimated 30 total attendees. The number also included city personnel, as well as Commissioner Keith King.
"For me, it was very beneficial," said Derrick Harvey, Main Street Authority board member. "It solidifies my understanding of how the trust operates, and our obligation for the city trust and the public at large."
Weatherford discussed relevant issues that are most common for the municipalities that have received training. Public comments were touched on in regard to policies for allowing citizens to speak during meetings outside of public hearings. The consensus was there is no law that requires organizations to have public comments, and it tends to be disruptive to meetings.
It was stressed to those in attendance to err on the side of the public when providing information. "When it doubt, give more information," Weatherford said.
Weatherford said executive sessions should be limited, but there are instances, particularly in terms of economic matters, when it is necessary. Quorums outside of meetings were touched on, with Weatherford explaining the social law which allows quorums in social situations, such as parades and outings, in which no business is to be discussed. He did say that some boards choose to be cautious and post the event to avoid issues with the public.
The Open Records Act was also discussed at length. Subjects such as reasonable amount of time for compliance were discussed. Weatherford said the number of requests from citizens is increasing. Some cities have become proactive and put more information on their website. He said board members should be mindful of the information given out through texting and emails, and to assume they will be made public. As an example, he talked about a reporter filling out an open record request for text messages during a meeting after he saw board members texting each other.
"I think it is always beneficial to be up on any current ordinances and statutes that make us more efficient in providing information to the public regarding the operation of the city," said Parks and Recreation Department manager Kevin Boatright. "It is always changing, it does not stay stagnate, and it is good to continue to attend continuing education. We always encourage our employees to stay current on information. Anytime, we can do that, it affects the way we do our job. It shows the employees for the city of Ardmore want to do the right thing."