Tougher penalty proposed for Miss. secret meetings

Several lawmakers are pushing big changes to Mississippi’s open meetings law again this year – legislation a House committee chairman killed with a last-minute maneuver in 2010.

Higher fines, as well as proposals to make officials pay instead of taxpayers when there’s a violation, died last year. Opponents said they worried about the financial burdens those changes might place on some low-paid or volunteer officials.

Natchez Democrat newspaper publisher Kevin Cooper, whose paper recently won a state Ethics Commission dispute with Adams County supervisors over a closed session, said he came away from the battle thinking the current maximum fine of $100 is too low. He also laments that taxpayers pay the fine, rather than the officials found in violation.