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Ethics Commission Rejects Staff, MFP Push to Open House Caucus Meetings by 2 Votes

JACKSON, Miss.—A majority on the Mississippi Ethics Commission has rejected its staff’s recommendation to affirm that the Mississippi House of Representatives is a “public body” that is subject to the Mississippi Open Meetings Act in a 5-3 vote.

The Ethics Commission’s vote today and its Director Tom Hood’s Dec. 1 recommendation grew out of reporter Nick Judin’s blocked efforts to attend House Republican caucuses at the Capitol with Speaker Philip Gunn presiding over regular closed Republican caucus meetings where members discuss legislation and then usually vote in tandem. The Republican Caucus numbers 75 of 122 elected members of the House of Representatives.

Read Mississippi Ethics Commission Director Tom Hood’s recommendations, which a 5-3 majority of the body rejected.

In his Dec. 2 recommendations to the full commission, Director Hood responded to a legal complaint by the Mississippi Free Press with recommendations that the body affirm that the Mississippi House of Representatives is a “public body” and thus subject to the Open Meetings Act. Had the commission accepted Hood’s suggestions, it would have clarified that the House of Representatives is indeed a public body subject to the Open Meetings Law and that weekly Republican caucus meetings attended by a majority of House members to discuss legislation should be open to reporters and the public in the future.

This morning, in a vote of 5-3, the full ethics commission rejected its director’s six-page recommendation that would have made House Speaker Gunn’s cause meetings open to the press and the public, if accepted. The governor, lieutenant governor, House speaker and the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court appoint the eight members of the committee.

Chairman Ben Stone, Vice Chairman Sean A. Milner, Stephen W. Burrow, Erin P. Lane and Samuel C. Kelly all voted against the recommendations. Secretary Ron E. Crowe, Robert G. Waites and Maxwell J. Luter voted in favor of the recommendations.

The Ethics Committee is now set to adjudicate the specific language with which they will explain their rejection of the Mississippi Free Press complaint and Director Hood’s recommendations.

Debating Whether House Is Public Body

The Mississippi Free Press,

Read more by clicking here.

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