Sunday, March 22, 2015

If You Can't Stand The Heat




Anytime you pack a room with town officials, board and committee members -- appointed or elected -- you're bound to have a few grumps.

So I didn't really mind so much the venom spewed towards the media by Shelburne Board of Selectmen Chair John Payne -- it was more the ovation he received from the rest of the crowd.

Although I did notice Stan Rosenberg, who organized the Hampshire & Franklin Municipal Conference, calling his speech finale, "fighting words."

What the Attorney General needs to do is put more teeth into the Open Meeting Law.  Make an example of offenders who knowingly violate the law, not by fining the committee or board $1,000 so the taxpayers get stuck paying it.

Fine every individual member of the board $1,000 that must be paid out of their own pocket.  Then you will see a dramatic improvement in compliance.  If that doesn't do it, then try a jail sentence.

Making the job of the media a little easier via a strong Open Meeting Law only brings better enlightenment to the multitudes of citizens who rely on the media for vital information about their local government.  

If you can't deal with transparency then don't volunteer or run for public office.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are nuts. These are volunteer positions. Let's keep some perspective. Nothing like serving the public and ending up with a $1,000 fine. You think not enough people participate now, just wait until that happens.

Larry Kelley said...

All the more reason for a professional Mayor/Council form of government.

Rene said...

Larry,

Sorry, but I think your 7:20 PM statement doesn't hold water.

In rebuttal, I'd cite the Holyoke City Council any time over the last 30 years that I've been aware of their antics. Not to mention the Mayor/City Council where I lived for 12 years.

Larry Kelley said...

Northampton, our sister city in spirit, seems to do just fine.

Anonymous said...

A meeting between a mayor (or town manager) and a crony doesn't need to be open - at least a larger Select Board has open meetings (except for executive sessions)! Be careful what you wish for, Larry….

Larry Kelley said...

Town Manager and Town Meeting members are also exempt from Open Meeting Law, so they can meet with anyone they wish privately.

Anonymous said...

You ARE funny, playing "Ice, ice, ice, Baby," over Weiss' "chilling effect."

The fine would be to the Town, not the individual volunteer. I'm all for "transparent" government. The quotes are because we haven't reached it yet. You go, Guy, we do appreciate you making us toe the line on the OML.

Anonymous said...

People serve in volunteer positions for one of two reasons --- civic mindedness or personal gain, aspects of the latter including both power/prestige and financial.


The former WANT people to see what they are doing -- and the latter we don't want...

Anonymous said...

This time, you will get more complete coverage of the meeting and this issue in today's Gazette.

Laws should not be objects of worship. They live in how they are complied with and enforced. Sometimes that doesn't work quite right, and the law needs to be tweaked.

Whenever you have Kay Moran and Alisa Brewer expressing different points of view on OML, as you will read in the Gazette, you have an interesting discussion. I was not fully aware of the problems presented by the law, and I'm glad that the conversation on how OML actually works is taking place.

It seems to me that it's a legitimate question, worth engaging, whether we get better public policy under the OML, as it currently operates. What do other states with similar civic cultures do, like Vermont or Minnesota? Who knows?

The more we know about how town boards operate (or don't, as the case may be), while complying with the law, the better off we are. It's good to know what people who have tried to serve their communities through town boards think. The self-examination goes better without the snark.

Rich Morse

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, I was a tad surprised the Gazette worked on a weekend.

Anonymous said...

I pay my taxes voluntarily and the govt still treats me like crap and makes me disclose all my personal and private information.

These folks need to get down off their high horse and be ready to be treated like they treat us....I mean held to the same standard.

Fire those that don't comply with the law (because they failed at their jobs) and then punish them to the full extent of the law (because they are criminals of the worse kind, those that abused their assigned (not natural) power). If volunteers can't stand the heat, they were not worth it anyway - just take away their keys, you don't even have to explain why. If those being paid can't stand the heat don't worry, they will adapt, they have no choice but to keep doing it because they could not handle the private sector where the heat is up to 100 degrees every day every minute or you are fired with no follow up or article. When they go to apply for future jobs, they will get googled and these articles will come up.

The quotes from those public servants were shameful. I can't believe they said that stuff knowing the public would hear it. This shows what a low opinion they have of those they are serving.

Tom Simpson said...

Some people seem to be forgetting why Open Meeting Laws came about- the backroom deals, politicians/board members conniving with others to do their business behind the public's backs. Just take note of what's going on now with the S Hadley Electric commisioners.
If anything the law needs to be strengthened so that violators get more than just a slap on the wrist and don't dare ignore decisions from the AG's office to release requested information

Larry Kelley said...

Like our Regional School Committee who continues to ignore an order from the Public Records Division to release information about payoffs to employees over the past five years.

Anonymous said...

Fining the individual will never work. It will go before the same people responsible for the open meeting violation. Result, they will simply dismiss it!

Anonymous said...

I was at the conference and was shocked and embarrassed by the venom directed at the OML. As a volunteer board member, the OML not only protects the public but protects me. Against being forced into email conversations; "reply alls"; conversations that really should be a part of the public record; and against the constant time-suck of having other board members expecting responses. It's a good thing in its current form and I like it. It does mean that members of the public can hijack a reply-all thread and board members cannot participate. But that's as it should be. Board members have the public forum to reply, and anyway those conversations should not be happening via emails or "collaborative documents" or any such thing. There is a reason we have the meetings in public. I don't believe that my input is so important it can't wait for the next meeting.

And the breakout session I attended was just as bad. I think Stan is the only repeat speaker from last year. Probably nobody else from Eastern Mass. would even consider making a second trip out the Pike just to be abused by WMass trolls. It's very sad and makes me understand why Bostonites consider WMass a backwater. Most of the time we deserve it.

Larry Kelley said...

It really, really was embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the irony of people on this blog complaining about other people whining.

Or better yet, about the venom of others.

What a riot.



Larry Kelley said...

Ah, the irony of an Anon complaining about, well, anything.

Anonymous said...

Rosenberg said legislators in the same party discuss issues behind close doors in order to try out ideas that might not be ready for the public, one of the same requests Payne made for local boards and committees. Negotiations between the House and the Senate to merge versions of the same legislation passed by the two branches are also private, he said.

“Transparency is important in government but it has to operate in a way that allows people to do their jobs,” Rosenberg said. He said it is rare that decisions would be made in a caucus and described them as exploratory discussions before public debate.

Having such conversations in public would have a “chilling effect” on the ability to explore ideas, forge compromise and be creative, Rosenberg said.

What's good for the goose is apparently not so good for the gander?

Anonymous said...

Public servants....


Private citizens....


The protocol is hidden in the names. There is no need for debate....only a vocabulary lesson.


or is it public citizen and private servant (serving themselves).
















Anonymous said...

google Samantha mason, you will see the young woman who signed in the four rapists at umass , was given an award by the umass alumni association in 2015. I guess no one there reads the profiles of these "winners".
google Karyssa Youngs and you will see she is lecturing people at the SGA Womens Leadership conference on March 2. Then read what she did before during and after the same rape case. Has she no shame?

Anonymous said...

If the General Court were bound by this, we'd have far fewer problems....

Anonymous said...

If Town Meeting were bound by this, we'd have far fewer problems....

Anonymous said...

I would enjoy the school getting fined every time they ignore Larry's requests. The schools have zero accountability. Every time there is an issue they just wait it out. It always blows over and it is business as usual. At least waiting it out would cost them. Maybe Larry could step up his requests and either get the kind of information we all want or cost the schools thousands.

Go Larry.

Anonymous said...

Better yet, what if no one ever talked with anyone else ever?

That would solve all of our problems. There would be no corruption.

We would limit comment on public policy to anonymous rants on this blog and long speeches by Vince O'Connor. That would do it.

Anonymous said...

"Better yet, what if no one ever talked with anyone else ever?"

As long as we are living in the Land of Make Believe, let's take it to the other extreme shall we, everyone will bare their soul, link arms and sing Kumbayah.

Anonymous said...

Transparency is overrated.