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Private meeting to discuss city business inadvertantly becomes public

private meeting Standing is Philip Walker. To Walker's right are: 4th Ward Alderman, Will Tucker; 2nd Ward Alderman, Johnny Anderson; Mayor Tim Kent; and Alderman at Large, Keith Conlee.

Fifteen New Albany residents listened to a presentation by a “city planner” from Nashville at a private meeting Monday evening, August 14, at the Magnolia Civic Center.

The speaker was Philip L. Walker of “The Walker Collaborative.”

Walker was invited to New Albany by Ward One Alderman, Amy Livingston, who hosted the meeting, introducing Walker. Walker was the only city planner at the meeting.

The general thrust of Walker’s presentation was to tell what he could do to help New Albany develop some kind of comprehensive plan for its future. City hall sources said Walker’s fee for such services would amount to $100,000 or more.

Standing at upper left is Philip Walker. At table, upper right are seated: Amy Livingston, Logan Rutledge, and Betsey Hamilton. Recognizable at closer table are Tracy Vainisi and Billye Jean Stroud.

Four of the five members of the New Albany Board of Aldermen were among the 15 citizens attending. They were: First Ward Alderman, Amy Livingston; Second Ward Alderman, Johnny Anderson; Fourth Ward Alderman, Will Tucker; Alderman at Large, Keith Conlee. Only Third Ward Alderman, Kevin Dale White, was not present. Thus, a quorum of the city board was created at the private meeting.

Public boards in Mississippi are required by law to post a notice of any called meetings at least one hour before the meeting time. The established procedure is for the mayor or an alderman to sign a notice of a public meeting, which is then posted by the city clerk at city hall. City Clerk Frankie Roberts said Tuesday that she had not been made aware of the Monday meeting, and no notice was posted.

Alderman Livingston invited a selected group of people to the meeting, apparently using telephone calls, text messages, and other informal means.

By chance, learned of the meeting from a confidential source, went to the civic center, and took the photographs shown in this article.

In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Alderman Livingston acknowledged to that she had invited Walker and chosen individuals to attend and that no attempt had been made to make the public aware of the meeting.

When asked by why she called a meeting to discuss public business and made no attempt to inform the public, she said, “I didn’t think this needed to be public knowledge just yet.”

For Rants and Reason blog on the subject of open meetings:

For information on the Mississippi Open Meetings Law:

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