Metcalfe backs effort to tighten state's Sunshine Act
A local lawmaker is supporting legislation that would restrict what publicly funded agencies can talk about in private, coming on the heels of a Butler County tourism group that found itself under scrutiny from advocates of transparency.
“There have been concerns over the years,” said state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry. “Some local officials have been using executive sessions to talk about issues that should be talked about in the light of the public eye.”
The Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau changed its bylaws this month to say it would follow the state's Sunshine Act, which governs what business is conducted before the public. Bureau Executive Director Jack Cohen said the board never intended to stop, as some people believed after the agency's board in February made rule changes designed to streamline operations.
Cohen said the board removed a section from the bylaws in February stipulating it follow the Sunshine Act before reducing the annual membership meetings to three from four, eliminating the membership committee, turning over recruitment to the board of directors and dropping the requirement for a second signature on checks exceeding $500.
The board's latest change to the bylaws also requires two signatures on checks more than $1,000.
Cohen, the board president and the board treasurer are the only officials authorized to sign checks. Last month, the board eliminated a $500 threshold.
Cohen said the bureau, with an annual budget of $1.3 million, isn't a government agency, but a nonprofit, so it didn't believe it had to abide by the Sunshine Act.
He said, however, the intent was always to “voluntarily” follow it.
The board said it would enter executive sessions to only discuss legal matters, employment issues and the sale or lease of properties, as allowed under the law.
“We do everything above board, and we always will,” Cohen said.
Metcalfe said he believes that the tourism agency should fall under the Sunshine Act, since its funding is directed by the county commissioners.
“If you're receiving tax dollars, you should be under the Sunshine Law,” Metcalfe said.
Metcalfe is supporting legislation from Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, that would narrow the scope on what publicly funded bodies could discuss in private.
For example, Metcalfe said, discussions about an individual employee could remain in executive session, while overall employment issues or evaluation processes would have to be talked about in public.
“The public should be able to sit down with a school board and local government and say, ‘What's the policy to make sure staff are producing during the workday?' ” Metcalfe said.
The bill also would require state and local agencies to record executive sessions so that a court could decide whether the body violated the law if challenged by a citizen.
Metcalfe is pushing for a committee vote on the bill.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Butler County to join growing 911 network
- Iron Mountain digs deep in Butler County mine to bring in clients
- Holiday crunch arrives for Butler food pantries
- Butler County schools fare well in state performance ratings
- Briefs: Butler County names human services director
- Butler Area parents group wants district to consider alternate consolidation plan
- Man dies in apparent tree-trimming accident in Zelienople
- Fire sweeps through house in Jackson