AL Town Backs Down on Closing Meetings to Outsiders

The mayor of tiny Paint Rock said council meetings were being closed to the media and all other non-residents, saying, “What goes on in Paint Rock is the business of the people who live in Paint Rock.” She changed her mind after she learned that such a move would be illegal–and unAmerican.

In what most cases would not be considered newsworthy, the Town of Paint Rock, Ala., held a regularly scheduled town council meeting Tuesday evening – and the gathering was open to the press and public. The town of 200 got national attention this week when the Jackson County, Ala., Sentinel reported that the council in the town 20 miles east of Huntsville had proposed closing its meetings to the media and non-residents and barring distribution of minutes and financial documents. Mayor Brenda Fisk said the meetings are not the business of outsiders. “What goes on in Paint Rock is the business of the people who live in Paint Rock,” she said. “I really don’t see the benefit for anyone outside of Paint Rock or who doesn’t own property here to come to these meetings.”

Fisk changed her tune after the Associated Press reported that her proposal contradicts the Alabama Open Meetings Act, and’s John Archibald wrote about the proposal in a column headlined, “Paint Rock, Alabama: The most unAmerican town?” She said she proposed the guidelines in January, but they were never approved. She said she was reacting to a media frenzy that ensued when Paint Rock moved to shutter their small police department. “It’s on me,” Fisk said. “I did it all. Nobody has approved anything. It is not policy.”