|Solicitor Susan Wild|
The Sunshine Act exists to promote open government. The legislation specifically provides that "secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public's effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society." Council should be very reticent to meet behind closed doors, especially when appointing a successor to an official who was forced to resign as a result of political corruption.
Under the open meetings law, Council can only meet in the back room (1) to discuss an employment matter; (2) for collective bargaining; (3) to consider the purchase or lease of real estate; (4) to consult with their attorney on a legal matter that involves an "identifiable complaint;" and (5) for privileged matters.
Looking at each of these, you might think this is a personnel matter, but you'd be wrong. If Council were hiring a new Clerk, they could meet in executive session, but not to fill a vacancy in an elected office.
Susan Wild previously previously explained her interpretation of the Home Rule Charter during an open meeting. I believe it's dead wrong, and that a person from either party could be appointed to this vacancy since no one was ever in the Controller's office. But Council has an obligation to listen to their lawyer, not a bottom-feeding blogger. Since she's already discussed this publicly once, why did she request an executive session?
I believe she wanted to make Council aware that her opinion could be challenged in court. There is an "identifiable complaint" in that Steve Ramos or some other Republican could challenge this appointment in court. Because there is a possibility of litigation, she was correct to seek an executive session.
She is doing her job.
Whether I agree or disagree with her on this or that, I must say Susan Wild has been a breath of very fresh air in Allentown. She was put into a nearly impossible situation, and has reacted with integrity and honor. People with my history tend to bring the profession down, but someone like Wild can rescue a democracy in peril.
So some lawyers are good guys. Even if they're not guys.