Officials from Havelock and Craven County — including board commissioners, a mayor, and city and county managers — met on Monday to go over a range of issues, issues important to city as well as county residents.
The meeting was mainly about money, or at least we think it was mainly about money. We have to assume because the public and the press weren’t invited to attend.
And that was wrong.
The officials did just enough to guarantee that the meeting was not subject to state opening meetings law. Thus, they could hold their conversations in private, conversations that we were told in advance of the meeting would deal with funding for the senior congregate meals program, funding for computers at libraries, funding for Havelock recreational needs and funding for fire and rescue services.
And by funding we mean your tax dollars. And, when discussions take place about what happens with your money and how your money is spent, we believe those discussions should take place in public, so residents can form their own opinions on whether the spending makes sense to them.
Officially, no formal action could take place at the meeting. Still, enough work could have been done behind closed doors to allow, just as an example, Craven commissioners to vote at its next meeting to take $50,000 from its reserve account and put toward the senior meals program — without any discussion, without any debate and without the opportunity for the public to voice opposition or support.
It’s the kind of backroom politics and dealings more associated with Washington than Havelock or Craven County.
We were told in advance that the meeting would be closed to the press and the public to allow for a free flow of information and exchange of ideas. We have a feeling some dirty laundry was most likely aired, as county and Havelock officials have had their share of differences.
Still, we can think of no better way to allow for an exchange of ideas than to involve the public. After all, residents who have no political aspirations or political agenda don’t worry about making friends or making enemies in a room full of politicians. That just may allow for unique ideas that offer solutions that benefit both city and county residents.
There’s a saying that no one wants to know how sausage is made, that people just want to enjoy the end result. In this case, the public deserves to know how the sausage is made. Yes, it may be ugly, but it is the public’s money, and how it is spent and why should not be kept behind closed doors.