After the general election, Mayor-elect Greg Fischer promised to invite members of the Metro Council to his house for a morning breakfast in order to get better acquainted. The social event is planned for this weekend, but if enough city lawmakers show up then it will constitute an official meeting subject to open records law.
The Saturday morning house party raises a handful of ethical questions, however, particularly since no one will be able to check if the mayor-elect and council members will discuss city business or not. In an interview with WFPL, both party’s communications directors indicated the breakfast was a good faith gesture by Fischer, and that city lawmakers have been reminded what the state law requires and not to cross the line.
Asked how the public will know if matters outside the election results will be a part of the conversation, both admitted it is up to council members to follow the law.
“It’s the honor system,” says Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt. “You’ve got a situation with a brand new mayor who wants to meet with them socially. I don’t think anyone’s going to cross a line other than talking about their previous campaigns or their district a little bit. As far as anything major, everybody knows they jut can’t do that”
Part of the mayoral transition is observing how Fischer — a Louisville businessman and entrepreneur — will successfully transfer his expertise in the private sector to the rules and regulations around Metro government. During the general election, he made transparency a centerpiece of his campaign, but before taking office Fischer has already played a shell game with documents submitted by 111 Metro government employees to his transition team by refusing to release evaluations of their department’s strengths and weaknesses.
In the case of the breakfast, there’s quite frankly no way of checking if any impropriety takes other than someone at the social function stepping forward.
“People know what they are and are not allowed to do,” says Steve Haag, Republican caucus director. “It essentially just takes someone to tell the media if something improper went on. I’ve just reminded them what the law say on that. I truly believe the intent isn’t to discuss business, and that this is helpful to the cause. It’s not something people should be concerned about.”
It was brought to our attention by a reporter with The Courier-Journal via social networking that the Saturday social would be open to the media. When asked if members of the press could attend the Fischer breakfast with council members, however, the mayor-elect’s spokesman said only handpicked media would be allowed inside.
“We are allowing a two pool reporters — CJ for all print and WHAS for all TV,” said Chris Poynter, in an e-mail message. “Details to be sent later today.”
Other reporters have told LEO Weekly that they were informed by the transition team that they could stand outside the Fischer premises, but were discouraged from coming altogether.
According to Poynter, a random drawing was conducted to decide which outlets would be allowed in the Fischer home. All four local television stations and WFPL radio were in the broadcast pool and the Courier, LEO, Business First and Louisville Defender were in the print pool.
At least they’re being open and transparent about not being open and transparent.
From the Office of Mayor-elect:
Greg and Alex Fischer will be hosting members of the Louisville Metro Council and their spouses/partners for a breakfast at their home this Saturday morning at 9 a.m. This is social event and no official business will be discussed. However, since all council members will be present with the mayor-elect, two pool reporters will be allowed to cover the event. The pool reporters were chosen today by random draw.
The Courier-Journal will be the print pool representative and WHAS-TV will be the broadcast pool representative. The CJ and WHAS have agreed to share their information and footage with other media outlets following the breakfast.