Law requires Looney#039;s salary to be discussed openly

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 17, 2006

Openness in government is something this newspaper is a strong proponent of and Butler County Board of Education member Terry Williams' comment at the close of the board's Aug. 3, meeting concerns us.

Williams, in response to fellow board member Joe Lisenby stating that superintendent Mike Looney's compensation be reviewed for a possible increase, was concerning.

Williams said &#8220It should have been discussed before you brought it before the Board.”

Our question is &#8220discussed by whom and in what format?” While Williams' remark may have been totally innocent, we would hope that the board, and particularly Williams, understands that a discussion relating to Looney's compensation is not one that should occur behind closed doors, and that the public has a right, under the Alabama Open Meetings Law, to hear the factors that would determine any merit increase Looney might receive.

We certainly agree that the progress the school system has made the last year is excellent and may indeed warrant a compensation review for Looney, but the school board (and all boards that serve the public good) need to remember that it is the public they answer to and the public has a right to know about the board's dealings on matters such as this.

It would be wise for Williams to review the Alabama Open Meetings Law and acquaint himself with the topic of compensation discussion which states that all discussion of salaries, compensation and other &#8220job benefits” cannot be held in executive session. And we certainly hope that Williams wasn't suggesting that board members discuss such outside of a regular called meeting that the public and media has been notified of and has been given the opportunity to attend.

The Butler County Board of Education (Williams included) has made excellent decisions recently on issues such as dress code and executive hiring and we hope they continue to make the right decisions by following the rule and spirit of the law as it pertains to openness in government.