Email #53, Subject: “open door” meetings?

Why are you misleading your constituents about something as simple as meeting opportunities? Your website includes a page called “Open Door Meetings” with the following description: “Each month a member of Congressman Goodlatte’s staff travels to several communities throughout the Sixth District to discuss issues or problems you might have with the federal government.” Each Open Door Meeting is scheduled for ninety minutes, and I attended the one in Lexington last week. As each person entered, the staffer asked them if they were here with “the group” or for a “case study.” Everyone, including myself, was confused by the question. We slowly came to understand that the “Open Door Meeting” advertised on the website was not the staffer’s priority. Instead she would first have closed door meetings with any individuals who had private problems. If there were no private concerns, only then would she conduct the “Open Door Meeting.”  The scheduled ninety-minute “Open Door Meeting” lasted only forty-five minutes, because the staffer ended it as soon as someone arrived with a closed-door concern. If that individual had arrived earlier, the staffer would have ended the Open Door Meeting that much sooner. In fact, she said, she would not have held the Open Door Meeting at all and attended only to individuals if several had been there at the start of the period.

Why do you schedule opportunities to have private closed door meeting during the block of time advertised as an “Open Door Meeting” on your website? Could you please correct this information on your website to avoid further confusion and frustration in the future? Moreover, your website states the Open Door Meetings are “to discuss issues.” The staffer instead said that there would be no discussion of any kind. She would only write down our concerns and communicate them to you. In what possible sense does her taking dictation constitute a “discussion”? Again, please correct the information on your website before the next “Open Door Meeting” scheduled in February. I would be unfortunate and unecessary for the confusion and frustration to occur a second time.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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