Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's time for MSSU Board to cut out retreats

I have never been able to understand this nonsense that governmental entities need to have "retreats" to discuss public issues.

The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors held one such retreat, at the home of new president Bruce Speck, Friday.

Granted this is better than previous "retreats," which were held off-campus, at taxpayer expense, at resort sites, but the idea is still a poor one, particularly in these tough economic times.

If the board was meeting for hours every day, week after week, month after month, a break from the normal routine might be understandable, if still misguided. But that is not the case.

It sends the wrong message to the taxpaying public, when public business is discussed in such a setting.


I wrote the following post following MSSU Board's 2005 retreat to Branson:

The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors continued to snub its nose at patrons, students, and employees by conducting business at a retreat in Branson.
Though it could be argued that nothing major was discussed at the meeting, which has become an annual tradition, that is beside the point. Public meetings should be held at a place that is convenient for the public to attend. It doesn't matter whether the public would actually attend, what matters is that it is afforded the opportunity to do so.

It is not easy for a civic-minded person who wants to know how the Board of Governors is running the university to drive from the Joplin area to Branson to attend a meeting. The reasons for having the retreat are sound...from a business standpoint. It makes sense for the board of directors of a business to head to some scenic spot for a get-together and to recharge the old batteries.

That being said, boards that conduct the taxpayers' business are different. Their meetings must be open and accessible. It doesn't matter if 1,000 people want to attend the meeting or just one, all anyone who wants to see the Board of Governors in action should have to do is drive to the college.


Anonymous said...

You can't say that the retreat at the Speck house was held with no taxpayer expense. We're paying Speck $40,000 a year for a housing allowance so that he can hold such events in his home. Factor in his $180,000 salary and his free car, and he's living pretty high on the hog.

Anonymous said...

You act as if Southern is the only institution that holds retreats for board is done by many institutions...some tax supported and some not....apparently some belive there's a benfit of some kind in them....pick on them all if you must pick on the subject. Or maybe you need someone to invite you to one...maybe that would make you feel better.

Randy said...

I am constantly amazed at the people who cannot make a comment on any issue without making some kind of personal attack at the same time. Public business is public business. It should be discussed at a time and place that make it easily accessible to the public. In these difficult economic times, it is sending the wrong message to have "retreats."

It is not a good idea even when times are better.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with you most of the time Randy, this is one that I do not. The purpose of a retreat is to eleminate distractions and set policy and direction and you do not do that in a Seven Eleven or with the public looking over your shoulder. These Board Members are not regular Political Hacks and their decisions are always open to public scrutiny. Let them do their work and then we can modify the results when the reports are published.

Randy said...

What you say is logical, but we have all kinds of public bodies, city councils, school boards, etc., whose members I do not consider to be political hacks who debate and discuss public issues in regularly scheduled meetings in accessible public places with no problem. This is done in scheduled work sessions, or through public meetings of subcommittees.

Anonymous said...

I usually don't agree with you on anything and this is another time that is true.

2:41pm Anonymous got it right. Your clearly don't know what your are talking about and make it as though your opinion is right or worse yet matters.

Should start signing your posts "Clueless in Joplin" or wherever your cave is located.

Randy said...

I am amused, as usual, by the animosity of the people who disagree with me. I am willing to state my opinion and back it up without knocking those who disagree with me. I am curious as to why the issues cannot simply be discussed without resorting to name calling. If you disagree with me, tell me your reasons why and leave it at that. If i respond, I will do so in a civil manner.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the other commenters. A taxpayer-funded institution is never allowed to conduct business in secret with a few narrow exceptions.

Future planning and setting policy and direction is the exact situation when the public's involvement or, at least, oversight should be welcomed.

If they want to run a university in private then I suggest they volunteer for the OCC or Messenger board of trustees. The taxpayers paid for MSSU and are the owners of the institution.

Anonymous said...

HA! Respond in a civil manner? Are you kidding me? How many times on this blog have you personally attacked and openly questioned the intelligence of your readers? How many times have you called names? Actually, people should continued to be amused at YOU Turner. Every time someone doesn't agree with your crazy opinions on certain issues you try to diminish their views by simply saying that they are "attacking" you. Your hypocrisy is hilarious!
Also, you do not "back up" opinions, you back up your positions.
Finally, as to the issue of board retreats:

All school boards and other types of boards have them. You may not know about them but they take place and much more work can be accomplished through these means.
Go ahead Turner, take your best shot. I await you trying to come up with something clever or hateful in your next post. You normally do whenever I post. I suppose I could go through the archives to "back up" my claim but anyone who reads this post doesn't need that proof. You at least need to own up to the fact that when you are proven wrong or get frustrated that you cannot think of some clever jab, you simply resort to doing the very thing you accuse others of doing which is insult people!

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon who posted "All school boards and other types of boards have them. You may not know about them but they take place and much more work can be accomplished through these means."

I'm not Randy. We are both anon. Lets debate the ideas.

1) I'll concede that retreats are often useful for private business. But should a public institution funded by force by taxpayers rather than voluntarily by investors allowed to conduct its business in secret?

2) You seem to endorse secret meetings. Do you think these are legal? Do you think the law should be change to allow them to be legal?

Anonymous said...

Well I would like to put one thing to rest. In case any of you have ever heard of the Sunshine law it is a law that prohibits school boards from having meetings with out the pubilc knowing about them. I am a member of a local school board and I would like to put one thing to rest that School Boards that serve public schools do not go on retreats or have secret meetings. These in fact would be a violation of the sunshine law and each and every member serving on such board can be sued up to $50,000.00.
School Boards can have work sessions but these are made aware to the public in case anyone would like to sit in on them.
Randy I always like reading your blog and find it very infromative. I have always liked your writings since I can remember you writing for the Lamar Democrat when I was in High School. Just ignore all the haters. If they find you so repulsive then why do they choose to continue to read your blog and post such negative things all the time. This just proves that you can't please everyone all the time.

Anonymous said...

I have always had a problem with retreats held out of town and or at private residences. Sure, the public is entitled to attend, but who's going to drive all the way to Branson or barge into Speck's house? Why not hold them at the university so that interested people can easily attend?

Anonymous said...

No one really wants to attend these sessions, not even the folks who have to. Believe me I go to a fair share of these so called retreats to get new perspective and yadda is just the same old work as before just a different table cloth and a harder chair. Mostly it disrupts everyones life, families schedules are messed up and your mind is mostly at home wondering of everyone has eaten well that day and did they get their homework done. As long as it is not to Vegas or the Bahamas who REALLY cares?