Monday, June 4, 2012

AG Rebukes Regional School Committee

Maria Geryk (far left) Amherst Regional School Committee to her left

A six-month investigation by the Massachusetts Division of Open Government found the Amherst Regional School Committee did indeed violate the Open Meeting Law at its November 22, 2011 public meeting--but not for the technicalities I cited in my complaint.

At the very end of a three hour Regional School Committee meeting Amherst School Committee (who make up the lions share of the Region) Chair Irv Rhodes moved to go into executive session, "never to return." The motion is never properly seconded and no mention is made of why they are going into executive session other than the brief announcement three hours earlier at the start of the meeting by Regional Chair Rick Hood.

The Attorney General found, "While the Committee announced a valid reason for entering into executive session, the Committee violated the Open Meeting Law by discussing matters in executive session that were not appropriate given the stated purpose."  And the AG points out sternly, "This is not a mere technical violation."

Interestingly the casual indifference to protocol displayed by this nonchalant executive session is consistent with the infraction that got them in trouble with the Attorney General.  In fact, even after I filed my official complaint the arrogant attitude continued as they failed to properly respond to the Attorney General, which is duly noted in this official four page finding.

The Amherst School Committee now has two new members--Amilcar Shabazz and Lawrence O'Brien--and Rick Hood will be stepping down as committee chair later this month, so perhaps things will change.

Adhering to the principles of honest open government helps to build trust.  And trust in your local government is like money, education or good health--you can never have too much of it.

AG Amherst Region Violation
Already having an impact. Most recent agenda posted to town website:

Thursday, June 7

RECEIVED: 6/5/12 at 12:27 pm. MEETING TIME: 4:30 pm. LOCATION: Amherst Regional Middle School, Superintendent's Conference Room. LIST OF TOPICS: Enter Executive Session to discuss strategy sessions in preparation for negotiations with nonunion personnel or to conduct collective bargaining sessions or contract negotiations with nonunion personnel as authorized by MGL Chapter 30A, Section 21(2), with no intention to return to open session.


Anonymous said...

I think it's interesting that the things you were complaining about were not violations at all, Larry. Still seems like much ado about nothing.

Anonymous said...

efiI'm shocked, shocked, to find "Purpose 2" at this establishment!

LarryK said...

Did not seem so to the Attorney General.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the AG was that pissed. They pointed out their error, with an excellent explanation of the law and asked them to be more careful next time to follow the law. Remember, these are volunteers who serve on the SC. I still don't think this is such a big deal.

You really gotta get a life, Larry.

LarryK said...

Yeah, Anons are BIG fans of secrecy.

Anonymous said...

LOL, yea Anons who disagree with you - you just love to tear them down. The Anons who agree with you are like brilliant stars.

I am not a fan of secrecy - all I am saying is that they made an honest mistake that the AG was patient enough to explain to them the difference in the terminology they should have used. Instead of saying contract negotiations they were supposed to say bargaining strategy for bargaining with "x" union. Not a HUGE difference.

And, again I point out, Larry - You were wrong!

LarryK said...

The Anons who agree with me ARE brilliant stars. Are as President Bush would say, "Like a thousand points of light."

Anonymous said...

But fellow CAN, don't you know, "the #1 job of a journalist is to uncover the truth" blah blah blah. what a joke.

Yet another example of Larry going after the closest, easiest target.

Apparently the APD and the AFD and the DPW made no procedural flaws recently, otherwise Larry would have uncovered the "truth" for us.

LarryK said...

Darn right.

Anonymous said...

What is completely amazing is that Anon does not see the problem with violations of open meeting laws. The facts are that Amherst violated the law- a law passed to protect citizens and taxpayers.

This law is important to our community. Clearly within the school administration and governance there are issues they are willing to explore in public and those which they are not! When it has to do with friends of Ms. Geryk - like hiring her friends, such issues have to take place behind closed doors. When it is a discussion of something less embarassing - let there be light.

This is a black and white issue. Next time the party responsible for violating these laws will likely find themselves in need of legal counsel - take note Mr. Hood. Ms. Geryks skirts cannot hide you from the law.

Anonymous said...

The issue the school committee was discussing behind closed doors in this case were concerning contract negoiations for the teachers contracts. These things are NEVER discussed in open meetings by ANY school committee. The topic of the excutive session was not an unusual topic for any school committee. What Mr. Hood did wrong was to say that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss contract negotiations. What he should have said was that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss negotiation strategy. I know - a HUGE difference. A difference so big as to make the public think they were talking about something entirely different than what they really talked about!!! Bad Bad Amherst School Committee!!