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Council considers changing procedure on executive session

May 4, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer

Councilman Eric Heiser approached the Riverton City Council on Tuesday to ask them to consider moving the executive session to the beginning of the council's agenda.

"The whole idea came about after I had the opportunity to attend a Central Wyoming College board of trustees meeting, and they meet in executive session one hour prior to the start of the meeting," Heiser said.

Heiser said he thinks having the session before the meeting would put a limit on discussions and make the session more productive.

Currently, the executive session is immediately after the regular council meetings.

"We need to be more mindful of how late we are keeping city staff at city hall during our meetings," Heiser said. "On those nights when we have executive session we are often in session until 10 p.m. or later, and there is often a lot of rambling on with little being accomplished."

An executive session is a term for any block within a public meeting in which minutes are not taken, outsiders are not present, and the discussions are treated as confidential.

Executive sessions are regulated by terms of the Wyoming Open Meetings Law.

Heiser said that ever since city administrator Steven Weaver started working, the number of executive sessions has been reduced drastically.

"I applaud Steven Weaver for wanting more stuff out in the public," Heiser said.

Councilman Richard Gard said council members are officials who are elected to serve the people, even if it's inconvenient for the staff members.

"A lot of the decisions we make directly affect someone, and I think we need to make it known that we will work until however long it takes to serve our community," Gard said.

Councilwoman Diana Mahoney said she would like to look into the logistics of the proposal and thinks it would be an interesting avenue to pursue.

Heiser said one of the disadvantages to a limited executive session is that some may feel rushed. In that case, the executive session could continue after the regular city council meeting ends.

Mayor Ron Warpness said everyone wants to make the best use of time and thinks the idea has merit.

"I share councilman Heiser's concerns with keeping staff here longer than what they necessarily need to be here, but on the other hand, we have a responsibility to the community to take whatever time we need," Warpness said.

Councilman Lars Baker said he served on the CWC board for a term and said it seemed logical for council to have a timeline. "If we had a time limit, then maybe we would be careful with executive sessions," Baker said.

Heiser's proposal will be researched further and discussed at a future council meeting.

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