Is a meeting "public" if you don't tell the public?

Two months ago, I applauded OSHA for announcing that its SBREFA panel meeting on a draft diacetyl proposed rule would be open to the public.  Today, I feel schnookered.  OSHA hosted its teleconference-meeting yesterday (5/19) and today (5/20) with specially-selected small employers, but failed to provide meaningful notice to allow the public to participate.  Is a meeting really "public" if you don't tell the public? Or is it really public if you only tell a select few?  

 Not in my book.

In my March 17 post OSHA's new direction on diacetyl, I noticed that OSHA's Federal Register notice said its meetings with the small entity representatives pursuant to SBREFA would be open to the public.  In the past, OSHA did not announce the date of the SBREFA conference call and/or meeting, and only in rare instances were non-SBREFA participants allowed to listen in on the deliberations.    I said:

"Opening up the SBREFA panel discussions to the public is a welcome change."


"I hope that by making the SBREFA process open to public observation, weâll be able to assess whether this special adjunct process for small business representatives really adds significant value to the OSHA rulemaking process."

Following the March 17 Fed Reg notice and Secretary Solis' accompanying news release, I've been dutifully checking the OSHA docket for new submissions on diacetyl.  I wrote a post on April 30, listing the names of employers who would be participating in the SBREFA process, and again praised OSHA for promising to have the meeting open to the public.  In OSHA's letter to these small employers, the agency said the tele-conference would be open to the public and expected it to take place the week of May 18. 

Seeing that the public SBREFA meeting date was imminent, I set up a new Google alert and an RSS from OSHA to be certain I received OSHA's announcement about the exact date, time and location of the open SBREFA meeting.  But guess what?  OSHA didn't announce publicly the date, time or location of the event.  I understand that at least one key stakeholder was called last week, informed of the meeting details and invited to listen in.   I understand that at least one attentive reporter called OSHA to inquire when the teleconference would take place.  Both individuals attended the meeting.  

So technically, the meeting was open.  It's certainly not what I had in mind, however, when I applauded OSHA's announcement that its SBREFA meeting would be "open to the public."   Those were OSHA's exact words and I'd like to know what they meant.   I'm waiting to hear back from OSHA's Office of Communications.

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