Remember when C. Ellen Connally, newly elected president of the Cuyahoga County Council, responded to critics' complaints about the "secret" meeting of council members by saying, "Leadership is not the public's business"?
Yeah, we loved that quote, and it made us uncontrollably giddy thinking about a new year full of solid-gold soundbites from the latest batch of PR-ignorant leaders in control of the county. There were bound to be avalanches of comparable nuggets cascading from the mouths of Connally and Miller and company, and boy, they haven't disappointed.
The latest round in the ongoing battle between the PD and the council members came to a head this week when the paper chronicled closed-door meetings between some council members.
Cuyahoga County Councilman Dale Miller said he intervened Tuesday to make sure a council committee did not have to open its doors to the public, including a reporter who had been barred by the panel's chairman.
The latest council gathering in question began around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and was called to form separate screening committees that privately interviewed candidates for seats on the county's boards of revision. Miller, Councilman Jack Schron and Brady already had arrived. But Brady would not allow a Plain Dealer reporter to enter.
Don Brady followed Connally's lead in spewing 14-carat gold from his gaping maw when the PD report came a knockin': "We're not conducting public business. You can't be here," he said.
Oh, and he also said this: "I'm sure there's kind of a Keystone Kops feel to this." Good job, Don. Way to voluntarily associate council with the Keystone Kops.
Dale Miller was not content to sit in the background and let Brady get all the attention. When the PD initially surveyed council candidates on a variety of topics, each was asked their views on transparency, specifically whether they favored releasing the minutes of closed-door meetings. Miller didn't respond to the survey.
The PD pressed Miller further on the issue of transparency and meeting minutes:
Miller declined to participate in the survey and argued in his e-mail Wednesday that it was because the newspaper only accepted "yes" or "no" answers. In a subsequent interview, Miller, a former state legislator, said he does agree that minutes of closed sessions should be made public "after the issue in question is resolved."
And then he unleashed this gem: "I think that I am a very open person; I give lots of frank answers. But you guys [the Plain Dealer] are carrying this to an extreme that is going to make it hard for the council to operate."
Way to make an enemy there, Dale. It's not like the Plain Dealer has a history of blowing up public officials in full-page, above-the-fold spreads that eat up column inches all the way to page A13. And as petty and as incessant as they may look with their earnest gumshoe hounding, the folks on council aren't doing themselves any favors by opening their traps and saying... well, they basically look dumb when they say anything at all.
Your move, Connally. Looks like Miller and Brady have set the early bar for 2011.