Armed Guard, Cold Cuts, For Mayor's Secret Meeting

Mayor Nutter continues to lock reporters out of what they consider to be public meetings of City Council.  All but one of Council's 17 members are right now in a 14th floor conference room of the Municipal Services Building for a budget briefing by Nutter, who will make public tomorrow his plans to deal with $841 million gap in the city's five year financial plan.

City officials stationed an armed guard from the MSB's security staff outside the conference room and locked the door when reporters showed up on the 14th floor.  Other reporters were briefly forbidden to even take the elevator up to the 14th floor in the public building during business hours.

City Solicitor Shelley Smith, who has issued a legal opinion for Nutter saying the public can be barred from a briefing where a quorum of Council is present, denied a request this afternoon from the Daily News to allow reporters inside.  Most Council members cited Smith's opinion when asked if they were about to attend a public meeting.  "We're being told it isn't," Council President Anna Verna said as she entered. "We're not having a public meeting, according to the city solicitor," Councilman Bill Green said. "As long as the city solicitor says it's OK, it's OK with me," said Brian O'Neall, the Republican minority leader.

Nutter stood by the position that the meeting is briefing and not open to the public. "There will be no decisions made. We have to update the council on financial matters," Nutter added.

The secret meeting is rumored to last about three hours.  But don't feel too bad for the attendees.  The city's finances were flush enough to allow caterers to roll in a heaping platter of lunch meat, coleslaw, potato salad, rolls and soft drinks just before the conference room door was locked