Mason, Staff Council panel discuss budget, Hancher in closed session


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University of Iowa President Sally Mason spoke with the UI Staff Council Executive Committee — in closed session — about decisions facing the UI community.

Tuesday’s meeting highlighted issues about next year’s fiscal budget, the Hancher/Voxman/Clapp relocation, the faculty research track review, and her upcoming meeting with the entire council in two weeks.

Executive committee meetings with Mason, which have always been closed, are an opportunity for the committee to speak openly with the UI president concerning issues on campus, Staff Council President Glenn Kell said.

“It gives us a chance to have a working session with President Mason,” he said. “We use this time to have open exchange about a wide variety of topics on campus.”

Mason told the committee that UI officials are waiting to hear about next year’s budget from Iowa legislators, Kell said. She also said she hopes to hear more about the Hancher/Voxman/Clapp relocation in the next two to three weeks.

Executive Committee member Martha Greer said she expects Mason will discuss similar issues with the entire Staff Council at the March 10 meeting.

According to Iowa Code, a governmental body’s meetings may be held in closed session with certain stipulations, but they must be open if final action is taken on a matter. The body must also keep detailed minutes of the discussion.

“If the meeting is only advisory and it’s not mandatory that any decision be made, it’s likely that it has the right to be closed,” said Frank LoMonte, executive director for the Student Press Law Center.

Other UI bodies that have held closed meetings in the past year include the UI Faculty Senate and the Partnership for Alcohol Safety.

The Faculty Senate came under scrutiny last semester for its closed sessions, but the Iowa Attorney General’s Office deemed the practice acceptable. Because the Senate isn’t defined as a governmental body and it doesn’t meet the definition of holding meetings, it is not required to follow open-meeting laws.

When the Partnership for Alcohol Safety faced similar questioning, Jeff Shipley, the UI Student Government liaison to the Iowa City City Council, told The Daily Iowan that closed meetings could allow people to be more open and honest.

Greer, also the past president of the Staff Council, offered similar reasoning.

“These meetings are closed because we consult with [Mason] about items that decisions haven’t been made for yet,” she said.

Minutes of Tuesday’s meeting will be reviewed by the entire Staff Council at the March 10 meeting and will become public record after its meeting on March 17.

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