Open mics at private Wichita City Council meeting

It was just about a reporter’s dream.

Wichita City Council members had just kicked everyone out of their board room for an executive session meeting. A few minutes passed. And then there was a little commotion and some phone calls indicating the private meeting wasn’t so private after all. Turns out the audio was still on and broadcasting online — though Channel 7 viewers were just hearing the usual elevator tunes. City staff hauled out the microphones — seen in the photo at the left — and the council resumed its meeting in private. To this reporter’s dismay, nothing sexy got on air; they hadn’t even started their discussion. But it was about as close as we non-executives get to being a fly on the wall of a closed-door session.

The mics have been a bit of an issue since the city’s multi-million dollar remodeling reshaped the council’s offices and boardroom. Council members often don’t know whether they’re on air or not. Usually they’re trying to make sure they’re on air during their public meetings. But, occasionally, they’re worried their private sessions are being viewed by folks at home — or a thumb-twiddling reporter standing in front of the flat screen in the lobby of City Hall.

(For those new to the executive session format, these are the quasi-weekly meetings where personnel issues are discussed, new development proposals rolled out and lawsuits and settlements outlined. And who knows what else because there are no minutes kept, no recordings made and only rarely does someone leak a little information about what happened.)