Rep. Ed Blackmon has killed a bill that would fine public officials who break open meetings laws.

Blackmon, a Democrat from Canton who is chairman of the Judiciary A Committee, put a hold on and eventually killed the bill immediately after it passed in the House last week.

The bill, known as the "Meetings Accountability Act," would have levied fines of up to $1,000 against any public official who violates open meetings laws.

Under the present law only the public body - not the official - can be fined $100.

The bill gained attention in part because of an illegal dinner meeting between two state transportation commissioners and two Madison County officials last year.

Experts complain that not only is the current fine to small to deter such actions, but in a sense it penalizes the taxpayer instead of the guilty party.

Blackmon refutes this and says fining the individual office holder could become a barrier to someone trying to serve in public office.

"The large majority of these people are honorable," Blackmon said of public officials. "They don't wake up saying they're going to violate the law, but for whatever reason it might happen.

"We need to make sure we have given them adequate training so they don't have to go see their lawyer every time they make a decision," he added.

Blackmon's law firm represents the city of Canton, whose Mayor, William Truly, recently ordered a man to stop video tapping a meeting of the Board of Alderman.

Experts called the incident a clear violation of the state's Open Meetings Act, which states all meetings of public bodies can be recorded with either audio or video.

After a bill passed in the Senate, Blackmon's committee changed the language so that fines would be levied against the public body, not the individual.

Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, then offered an amendment on the House floor placing the penalty back on the individual, a move that passed the House by a 65-54 vote.

Moments later, the amended bill passed 97-22, but Blackmon held it on a motion to reconsider - a procedural move that can be used to kill an unwanted bill. And because Blackmon didn't bring the bill back up before Thursday's deadline, it died.

Snowden admitted that Blackmon's actions were nothing out of the ordinary in the House, but felt the bill was worthless without language that punished the individual.

"We wouldn't have had much of a bill without that amendment," Snowden said. "Our whole point is that the individual wrongdoers should be punished here.

"We believe they should be very careful about following the law," he continued. "And we're not just doing this to fine people. Nobody wants to fine anybody, we just want them to follow the law."

Mississippi Ethics Commission Chairman Tom Hood agreed.

"It just makes no sense," Hood said. "When a public servant has snubbed the public and broken open meetings laws, why on earth would you make the public pay for it?"

The Associated Press contributed to this story.