Huffpost DC

D.C. Council Votes To Remove Reporters From Meeting

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WASHINGTON -- The cranky relationship between some District of Columbia officials and the local press corps became more cantankerous on Thursday when members of the D.C. Council voted to exempt their proceedings from the city's open-meetings law and had security officers remove assembled journalists, including The Washington Post's Tim Craig, WTOP-FM's Mark Segraves and and WRC-TV's Tom Sherwood, from a conference room in the Wilson Building.

As Segraves wrote Thursday afternoon:

The meeting was called just two days after several members of the council cursed at one another during a private breakfast meeting ... and then continued to argue publicly and hurl personal insults at one another while debating an income tax increase.

Before Thursday's meeting, several councilmembers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the meeting was called to discuss the fractured relationships between councilmembers and to bring an end to the public infighting and name calling.

What was the justification for the reporters' removal? As The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis wrote: "Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) said the meeting would be closed because 'personnel matters' and 'financial disclosures' would be discussed."

But there were accusations that councilmembers did not follow proper procedures in making the proceedings closed to the press.

The D.C. Republican Party pounced on the episode and released this statement:

"Councilmembers need to have their heads examined if they think it's acceptable to have meetings about ethics behind closed doors and use DC Police to shut out members of the press. Our city leaders are further damaging their reputations when they hold meetings about ethics that are not open to the public and use DC Police as a way to shut everyone out," stated Bob Kabel, Chairman of the DC Republican Committee.

"Our city leaders are failing us and the District is in an ethical downward spiral. We have come to a point that our leaders discuss ethics behind closed door with DC police guarding the only entrance," concluded Kabel.

Just a week ago, many of these same journalists (including me), councilmembers, their staffs and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, gathered for Hacks and Flacks, an informal bar outing at Local 16 where local politicians and the press mixed in an informal setting.

On Wednesday, the local press corps battled Mayor Vincent Gray during his weekly press conference over his administration's decision to filter dispatches from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Services' Twitter feed. The D.C. government reversed its decision on Thursday.

Flickr photo by NCinDC