AP NEWS

Omaha suburb mulls anti-leaking measures for city officials

October 16, 2019

BELLEVUE, Neb. (AP) — An Omaha suburb is considering measures that could lead to the firing of elected officials for leaking information from meetings that aren’t open to the public.

The Bellevue City Council is holding an Oct. 29 public hearing on the two proposals, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

The first proposal says dissemination of information from closed sessions — also called executive sessions — by an elected official could result in an “allegation of misconduct.” The second proposal says a finding of misconduct could result in that official’s removal from office.

The proposals also would require people who aren’t elected officials or city employees to sign confidentiality agreements before participating in closed sessions.

Closed sessions are routinely held to ensure privacy on personnel matters or to protect taxpayer money on pending real estate transactions. Government agencies don’t want landowners to inflate land prices simply because the agencies are interested, officials have said.

“Not everything can be done with the public looking over the shoulder of the administration,” said Omaha’s city attorney, Paul Kratz, who has no involvement in the Bellevue proposals.

The proposals were drafted to give Bellevue recourse if a council member were to leak information that wasn’t meant for public consumption, said Bellevue’s city administrator, Jim Ristow.

The city wouldn’t be quick to remove someone from office, he said. Punishments for misconduct or leaking could include fines or reprimands.

“If you’re held to a standard, chances are you won’t dip below that standard if you know there’s some type of accountability behind it,” Ristow said.

Bellevue began discussing the proposals in July after a council member told a real estate agent that the city was negotiating with a different real estate agent, Ristow said. Those negotiations had not been made public at the time.

Ristow declined to provide details or say which council member leaked the information.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com