by Dan Gibson
There's a bit of professional bias involved here, since Patrick McNamara works across the office from me and I also handle the web stuff for Inside Tucson Business, but his reporting on the Rio Nuevo board lately has been must-read stuff, if live in Tucson and care about where your money is going. Turns out the new-look Legislature-stacked version of the Rio Nuevo board spends more time meeting in secret executive sessions than any other political organization in town:
The Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District board's frequent closed-door meetings have begun to raise questions about secrecy and what the group intends to do with the millions of dollars in taxpayer money it has banked.
The board, which has met regularly since the Legislature wrested control of the downtown redevelopment authority from the City of Tucson in 2009, has spent much of its meeting time in closed-door executive sessions.
Executive sessions are a privilege state law affords public bodies for the purpose of discussing certain issues prescribed in statute, such as legal matters, contracts, negotiations for purchases and specific personnel issues.
"They are not a government, they are a taxing district, and doing the people's business with the people's money behind closed doors," said Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik.
Since first empaneled on March 16, 2010, the Rio Nuevo board has met 45 times and held at least 29 executive sessions.
A review of the minutes from the Rio Nuevo board shows the total running time of all those meetings has been 165 hours and 25 minutes. During that time, the board has spent nearly 54 hours in executive session, a full third of all meeting time spent behind closed doors. The actual time spent in executive session is probably greater because the minutes on the board website for at least five meetings do not reflect when executive sessions began and ended.