So School Committee Chair Michael DeChiara has not seen his name in print for a few weeks and conveniently decided to continue stoking the fires of censorship by sending a follow-up missive (this time only signed by His Majesty and not the other 4 School Committee Chairs) to the District Attorney attempting to rebut the rightfully concerned ACLU counter-letter that garnered equal headlines to his initial PR ploy.
Okay, fair enough. But one thing you probably should not do in a letter to the DA, who is after all an attorney, is to admit you are "not a lawyer and cannot offer case citations," but then go on to suggest the ACLU lawyers who are lawyers--and well respected ones at that--did "not read the 5/18/10 letter carefully."
DeChiara whines, "Because many of us perceive the possibility of a conflict between Freedom of Expression and Massachusetts' Open Meeting Law it is my/our public belief that many of us are that many public officials are self censoring; limiting their freedom of expression as a result of murky legal waters."
Oh really? So who are all these public officials holding back their desire to found a free blog on Blogger or Wordpress because they fear violation of state law? Can you name one or two? And last I looked the state of Massachusetts has one of the weakest Open Meeting Laws in the nation--as individuals do not get fined for (intentional) violations, so they certainly don't have to worry about ever going to jail.
So if a current public official is that timid to hold off on founding a blog because state government has not issued "Blogging and Open Meeting Law for Dummies," then chances are their blog would be boring as Hell and nobody would read it anyway.
The state Open Meeting Law, as toothless as it is, was enacted to ensure public discussion takes place in public; it's the intentional, deliberate circumvention that should concern citizens--not the once in a blue moon unintentional serial discussion where one board member bumps into another at the grocery store and comments about an issue before them and then that member bumps into another at the Dunkin Donuts and regurgitates the brief comments.
But on a blog, EVERYBODY can look over your shoulder and bear witness to the conversation--all of it time date stamped!
I'm glad DeChiara professes to "wholeheartedly supports the ideas and values behind government acting 'in the sunshine'. However, without clear guidelines from the District Attorney, this is not possible."
Hmm...the First Amendment is a Federal Law enacted to prevent government--even lowly town government--from restricting the rights of 'The People and The Press' to voice their opinions. Asking a (state) government agent for "clear guidelines" about free expression is kind of like asking the fox to come up with organizational rules for the henhouse.
And yeah, I kid you not, he even signed off with:
An elected public official seeking guidance from my government."
(Although to his credit, he did at least forward a copy to the ACLU--but not to School Committee blogger Catherine Sanderson who is the obvious target of his egotistical ire.)