Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Russ Johnson Demands Training Wheels

I'll leave it to others to explain why Councilman Johnson's proposal to make leaking information from closed sessions illegal is, legally, stupid. I'm going to focus on how this proposal is representative of a larger problem we have with public servants refusing to accept the responsibilities of their positions and instead depending on legislative and judicial work-arounds. We required years of court supervision over the KCMO school system. We, apparently, can't be trusted to have local control of our police department.

In this case, Johnson can't handle the ordinary rough and tumble of leaking information from closed sessions and wants such (politically standard) leaks to be punishable by, presumably, the standard municipal maximum $500 fine and no more than 180 days in jail. Now, these aren't state secrets we're talking about. In the particular case of the Bates settlement, it's easy to say that such leaks cost the city money. It's equally easy to say that the failure to settle the case last December cost the city money. If the Bates example isn't a red herring, then Johnson is dumber than I thought.

Does anyone believe that such a restrictive ordinance would be proposed with the intention of preventing council members from discussing closed session matters with their politically connected friends? Of course not. Does anyone see the problem with enforcing such an ordinance in light of journalistic unwillingness to name sources? Of course. Is the city really willing to expend resources locking up Tony in our fancy new regional jail for contempt of court? One would hope not. (Besides, the last thing the powers that be should want is Tony having a personal stake in reporting problems with the jail).

I understand the need for closed sessions to encourage frankness. If I were an elected official, I'd probably be skirting the edge of the Sunshine Law as much as possible because sometimes it really is easier to get things done in the dark. But you've got to have that threat of exposure. Our elected officials need to have some sense of risk analysis. That Russ Johnson can't handle leaks in the normal, professional politician fashion is an embarrassment. And I don't think we should give him legislation to enable his weakness.


  1. Russ is a major league dweeb who has no problem striking out at democratic frameworks.

  2. Definitely an embarassment. The city has higher priorities. This ordinance does not solve a city problem. It does not even solve a minor city problem.

    This addersses an insecurity on the part of Russ Johnson. Serioulsy, an ordinance banning the feeding of Geese near Brush Creek has a positive public policy outcome - Russ' ordinance does not.

  3. I remember Russ Johnson on the radio at KJHK. Then he was on with Mike Murphy at KCMO. Then he was out in Denver or something. Man that guy could talk!