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DRPA isn’t only agency with backroom decisions

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

One of the reforms enacted by the embattled Delaware River Port Authority last week was a ban on secret meetings among members. The DRPA isn’t the only agency that makes decisions behind closed doors.

If you’ve ever gone to a meeting of some government board and found yourself staring at their empty chairs while members make the real decisions behind closed doors, you’ve witnessed a crime. The state sunshine law says the deliberations – not just the votes – of public boards have to take place in public meetings, advertised ahead of time.

In the DRPA’s discussion of the issue Wednesday, one board member, Philadelphia Councilman Frank DiCicco spoke frankly about what really happens on boards he’s serves on.

“It’s not unique to the Delaware River Port Authority that we have these executive private sessions where deals are being cut. I mean, that’s just the way boards normally run.”

So for future reference, here’s the law in Pennsylvania: debates and votes have to occur in public meetings. Boards can meet in private session on certain limited matters, such a personnel issues or litigation. But they have to announce they’re going into executive session and explain why. You can easily to find the sunshine law on the internet, and print a copy to show politicians when they try and do the public’s business in private.

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