11/25/2012

Secret (?) de fonction!

When told that in the airport Environment Commission I was subject to the Geneva "secret de fonction", I asked what was secret?


On Monday, 19 November, I attended my first meeting of the Geneva Airport Environmental Commission as the official representative of the Geneva Airport Neighbours association ARAG (Association des Riverains de l'Aéroport de Genève. This commission, also known as the CCLNTA (Commission Consultative pour la Lutte contre les Nuisances dues au Trafic Aérien, has members, named by the Geneva State Council, representing different entities (Swiss and French communes, environmental organisations, entities from different aviation activities and from Geneva authorities). Its meetings are not so secret as to be "huit clos", but are nonetheless not open to the public: the minutes are subsequently (three months later) published on the airport web site.

Together with other new members, I was told that we are all required to respect the official "secret de fonction". My reaction was that, having checked (on the Web) what this entailed, I had only one question: what was the commission's definition of a "secret"! Although somebody murmured "everything here", I noted that I represented the ARAG committee and all the individual members of ARAG. I equally noted that other members of the commission, in particular those representing communes strongly affected by aircraft noise,  also had people behind them to whom they should be able to report.

After a relatively brief discussion, my understanding is that I can report on what happened in  the meeting to the population which I represent. However, I cannot distribute any documents until they have been mentioned in the subsequent authorised version of the minutes of the meeting.

I thought of this when I read that at a higher level, there had been discussions in the Geneva press about what had happened in a recent meeting of the Board of Directors (Conseil Administratif) of the airport. This newspaper seemed to know all about a Board member walking out of the meeting as a result of decisions taken, or not taken, relative to authorised taxis having to compete with unauthorised people carriers at the airport. Clearly, in that case, there is a serious doubt as to whether certain secrets were actually kept secret.

A cynic might say that the more important the meeting, the more likely it is that some "secrets" will be leaked! This then leads on to the rôle of newspapers using sources of information to know about "secrets". From there it is only another step to the rôle of governmental bodies in publicising, or otherwise using, information illegally obtained, such as the names of people having money in Swiss banks!

Are there levels of wrongdoing?

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