Meeting with BSL city leaders characterized as 'training'

Meeting with BSL city leaders characterized as 'training'

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Bay St. Louis City Council members have been called to a meeting about city finances Thursday, but there were initially questions about whether that meeting might violate the Sunshine Law.

Councilwoman Wendy McDonald confirmed that council members have been called to a closed door meeting Thursday evening with representatives from the State Auditor's Office. As of late Wednesday evening, the council president decided to open the meeting to the media and public.

McDonald said Council President Joey Boudin sent an email to members saying auditors requested the meeting. According to McDonald, the email read in part: "It's closed to the public. It's for educational purposes only, no business to be conducted and no decisions to be made. They [the State Auditor's Office] want to give us an update and inform us on the way we should be doing things according to state law."

McDonald said the first question she asked was whether the closed meeting was legal and followed the rules of Mississippi's Open Meetings Law.

"We all asked Joey and he said, 'No, it is okay to do it this way,'" McDonald said.

Boudin apparently raised questions about the meeting as well. Boudin shared an email with WLOX News Now.  In it, he said he asked about the legality of a closed meeting.

"I questioned that to Sam with the OSA [Office of the State Auditor] and she said it would be a teaching session on what we should and shouldn't be doing. No votes or decisions being made. No different than if we all attended a MML [Mississippi Municipal League] meeting," Boudin's email read.

A spokesperson for the State Auditor's Office confirmed its representative is meeting with the council for a training session.

McDonald said a closed meeting does seem unusual and she plans to ask again before Thursday's meeting begins.

"It's different because we usually don't get more than two or three of us in one place at one time. I'm positive that Joey [Boudin] vetted this. We don't want to break any rules even if it is with the State Auditor's Office. I'm confident he asked that and was told it is ok."

McDonald also said if it's determined some council members need to leave to avoid violating the Open Meetings Law, she would step out.

Bay St. Louis' finances have been under scrutiny for months and council members have called for additional audits by the state. Last week, a performance review of city finances began with auditors promising an in-depth look at records and advice for city officials going forward.

Copyright 2016 WLOX. All rights reserved.