From Asheville Watchdog: City Council check-ins are out

By Sally KestinAsheville Watchdog

The Asheville City Council officially ended its regularly scheduled, private “check-in” meetings Tuesday, a long-awaited step that advocates say will bring more transparency to city government.

A proposal to switch to public work sessions passed unanimously as part of the Council’s consent agenda. Meetings held to brief Council members on pending or upcoming business will now be attended by the full Council and open to the public.

For at least five years, those briefings had been conducted in private with no recordings made or minutes taken. By limiting each check-in to two Council members and the mayor, the city avoided the requirements of the state’s open meetings law.

Council member Kim Roney said switching to public meetings is “a step in moving to doing more of the people’s work in public, ensuring that taxpayer-funded, regularly scheduled meetings of Council can be an opportunity to engage the public and educate the public while we educate ourselves.”

Residents and open-government advocates had objected to check-ins for at least a year, but until recently, a majority of Council members supported the sessions, saying they provided an opportunity to learn and ask questions without fear of public backlash.

Last month, Asheville Watchdog detailed the practice after the public was denied access to check-ins on one of the city’s worst crises in recent memory: the December water outage that left thousands without water for days.

“A lot of folks in the community have brought this up; there’s been conversations in the press,” said Council member Maggie Ullman. “I think it’s good for us to try new things. . .The public will be along for the ride with us, so let us know how it’s going as we experiment with this format.”

Ullman and Roney were the only Council members to speak on the matter.

Nina Tovish, who unsuccessfully ran for the Council in 2022, addressed Council members and said the change “opens the door for community members to make informed public comment … before a vote is taken on matters because they will have been able to follow along with your deliberations.”

The shift to public work sessions, as part of the consent agenda, was lumped in with 10 other items that were approved with a single motion and vote. Tovish asked the Council to cast a separate vote on ending check-ins. That didn’t happen.

“I’m asking each of you to go on the record in support of this change,” Tovish said. “This is an opportunity for public accountability, and this move toward transparency is something that should be celebrated and be seen as a full commitment of the Council.”

Left unsaid was whether the Council would discontinue check-ins entirely or continue to hold private sessions on larger or more controversial matters.

“I would like to see really clear guidelines,” Tovish said, “if you do continue to have check-ins behind closed doors, that there are not only agendas available for public access, but also that minutes will be available after those meetings.”

Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and surrounding communities. Sally Kestin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter. Email


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7 thoughts on “From Asheville Watchdog: City Council check-ins are out

  1. Voirdire

    Well thank god the closed door check-ins are over… you know for sure something nefarious was going on from the get go! I am the only one who has the sinking feeling that the woke far left is as every bit inane as the MAGA far right? ..sigh.

  2. North Asheville

    A win for Asheville Watchdog in getting something changed. Now, can Watchdog work on getting the Dogwood Trust to buy back MIssion from HCA and return it to non-profit status. Who were the Mission trustees who allowed that to happen?

    • Voirdire

      hummm, actually, I believe that after the Mission “sale” to HCA… the City Council held a closed door “check-in” in order to discuss the possible sale of the entire city of Asheville to HCA, since the first give-a-way had gone so well. Again, thank god those “check-ins” are a thing of the past! whew! …btw, all the Mission Hospital board meetings leading up to the discussion and then subsequent “sale ” of Mission to HCA were held behind very tightly closed doors ….why? …because the general public wasn’t invited nor needed in view of the stellar Mission Hospital Board of Directors that the City and County Councils has assembled for the disassembling of Mission . ….now there might be a slight problem… patronage in the form of prestigious board seats no matter unqualified the well positioned were/ are ….just saying.

      • Voirdire

        sorry: that should have read, obviously ….in view of the stellar Mission Hospital Board of Directors that the City and County Councils HAD assembled for the disassembling of Mission. Anyway, this really was at the heart of Paulus’s and Green’s spectacularly engineered fraud …a completely unqualified board …all of whom were put on the Mission Board by the Asheville City and County Councils.

    • indy499

      You obviously think non profit and for profit hospitals are somehow different in quality, cost and charitable contribution rate. They aren’t.

      Non-profit merely means the profit goes to the non profit running the hpospital, not that there are no profits.

      • Voirdire

        Really? …that’s how it works? Who knew? Just wow… so insightful …good info there! Let’s now delve into the HCA shareholders and their part in all of this …HCA being a publicly traded company and number 62 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue. I mean, I can hardly wait to hear about how all of this works vis a vis a single stand alone nonprofit entity like Mission Hospital. ( I the only one who is a bit taken back by just how well educated and bright our MAGA folks are??? …whew ;)

        • Voirdire

          ..oh, and somehow I was led to believe somewhere along the line that profit vs nonprofit had something to do with their respective taxable statuses and responsibilities/ requirements regarding all those profits. …Silly me ;)

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