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Thread: Ooops, they did it again!

  1. #1
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    Default Ooops, they did it again!

    School Committee breaks Open Meeting Law again
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/index.php

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    Same As It Ever Was
    Same As It Ever Was
    Same As It Ever Was
    Same As It Ever Was
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    School Committee breaks Open Meeting Law again
    Same As It Ever Was
    Same As It Ever Was
    Same As It Ever Was
    Same As It Ever Was
    John, the only thing "Same As It Ever Was" is your childish taunt devoid of any substance and linking generically to your Drudgesque hobby site.

    I read through the April 28, 2014 Attorney General Office's opinion. With the caveat that I'm not a lawyer and that I may not fully be understanding the nuances of the Open Meeting Law, I'll share my substantive thoughts here.

    Let's take the three alleged violations in the order that they occurred rather than in the curious order in which the Attorney General's Office addressed them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Office of the Attorney General
    3. The Topic "Personnel Matter" in the [School] Committee's Posted Notice was Insufficiently Specific.
    I don't disagree with this opinion, but do disagree that the lack of specificity was intentional and worthy of a $1,000 fine. The lack of specificity might have been an inadvertent inattention to detail or more likely an attempt not to divulge damaging information about a school employee. Should the Committee have done better? Perhaps. Was it guilty of an intentional deceit? The Attorney General offers no evidence to support this claim.

    Quote Originally Posted by Office of the Attorney General
    2. The Committee Improperly Entered Executive Session When a Member Other Than the Chair Stated the Purpose for the Executive Session.
    I don't know the history of why only the chair is allowed to state the purpose, nor can I imagine why that would matter. This "violation" strikes me as being of a highly technical nature and in no way contrary to the spirit of the Open Meeting Law.

    Quote Originally Posted by Office of the Attorney General
    1. The Board improperly entered executive session under Purpose 7 because the issue discussed was not protected by the statutory right to privacy.
    The Attorney General Office's writing and footnotes on this point border on the convoluted to the point if being impenetrable, but my read of their literary thicket boils down to this phrase: "the discussion was of the sort that may be held behind closed-doors [sic]."

    What the Attorney General's Office appears to be trying to say is that the Committee would have been on solid ground for its executive session had it sited Purpose 1 instead of Purpose 7.

    Quote Originally Posted by Open Meeting Law
    Purpose 1: "allowing discussion of 'reputation, character ... discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public employee, staff member [sic] or individual.'"

    Purpose 7: "to comply with another law ... which relates to a person's right to privacy."
    In sum, to the Attorney General Office's finding of "violation" on three counts:
    1. Technicality
    2. Technicality
    3. Technicality

    John, the mature way to engage in public conversation on a matter is to cite the issue and support your opinion on that issue. You did neither. A reasonable reader (unlike the Office of the Attorney General) might be forgiven for finding your behavior intentional.

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    However one chooses to interpret it, defend it or spin it, one irrefutable fact remains:
    The Attorney Generalís office has found Wayland to be in violation of the law 12 times - twice as much as all of our peer towns combined.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    John, your failing is that you don't choose to interpret it, defend it, OR spin it. Instead, you sling mud without comment. That's immature, petty behavior.

    Has it occurred to you that Wayland's OML history that you cite is a stronger function of the frequency with which residents complain rather than the frequency with which it commits violations?

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    Reporting facts ≠ slinging mud.
    "Immature, petty behavior" = personal attacks as a way to deflect attention from irrefutable facts. Plus, it's mean-spirited as hell.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    John, you didn't report facts, you posted a link to your site with the childish "Same as it ever was" repeated over and over. You then linked to a long, dry document knowing that without context, people would take it as a slight against our School Committee. I took the time to read the lengthy document and explain why it's a bit of smoke with no fire. You steadfastly refuse to explain why you see fire.

    I did NOTHING to deflect attention from "irrefutable facts." Rather, I went out of my way to address why said "facts" are in fact refutable. Perhaps you failed to notice my post #2 on this thread?

    "Mean-spirited as hell" IS an accurate description, though ... of your original post. And your behavior IS immature (attack without justification) and petty (the "transgressions" being technicalities, as I took the time to point out)--any reasonable reader can see that.

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    John, of course, this isn't the first time you've lobbed a grenade and then tucked tail and fled.

    Most recently, you took the School Committee to task for its statement on the METCO Director (post #3 here). But you didn't explain WHY you objected to their statement.

    No, your modus operandi is too often to post attacks that some might on the surface interpret as reflecting poorly on the attacked, then fail to back your attack up.

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    (Click the chart for larger version)

    According to the Attorney General's office, Wayland has broken the Open Meeting Law 12 times, which is twice as much as all of our peer towns combined.

    For more information, including a link to the source, go here: http://www.waylandtransparency.com/index.php
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    John, no one is disputing the that Wayland has been found to have broken the OML N times, and no one is disputing that Wayland should do better.

    While we know how many times other towns have been found to have broken the OML N times, neither we nor the Office of the Attorney General know how many times other towns have actually broken the OML. It may well be that those other towns have violated the OML exactly as often as or more so than Wayland has, but with residents who are less aggressive about reporting alleged violations.

    Of course, it's you who are trying to divert attention. The point to which I've taken exception is not "violation" count, but rather (a) your immature, petty slamming ("Same as it ever was" x 4) of the School Committee without any elaboration/context and (b) the technicalities reflected in the Office of the Attorney General's April opinion.

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    It is possible that we have more violations than peer towns because we have citizens who love to file complaints. It would be telling to see the same chart john so nicely posted updated with number of compliance complaints that have been filed against peer towns and Wayland over more than just the less than 3ish years on the AG website. I bet our batting average is the same or better than others. John would you do that since you have the data and created the original chart.
    Last edited by BTDowns; 05-06-2014 at 04:24 PM. Reason: clarify length of time.

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    Actually, we have an equal number of complaints to determinations. Every complaint results in a determination unless the AG finds that the complaint was filed too late, and since, as you've astutely pointed out, we are fortunate enough to have several citizens who are quite well versed in the OML, it's safe to say that the number of complaints filed late is few, if any.

    So, again, from the chart:
    The number of determinations in Wayland: 16 / The average number among our peers: 1.
    The number of those that the AG determined to be a violation in Wayland: 12 / The average number among our peers: 0.3
    The number of those serious enough to warrant a fine for Wayland: 2 / The average number among our peers: 0.
    Out of roughly 350 towns in the Commonwealth, only 3 other towns have ever been fined - once each.

    Yes, we really do have a problem here. Blaming the reporters of these violations is, in essence, shooting the messenger. It is not their fault. It is the fault of the board members who repeatedly break the law. There is no way to spin this to make it seem OK. It is NOT OK.

    I am very glad to be living in a town with active citizens who serve as watchdogs and take action when they perceive a violation. Imagine living in a town where nobody gave a damn! It's sad enough here, where only 30% of registered voters actually come out and vote, but imagine living in a town where nobody paid any attention whatsoever to their town government. That type of indifference and blind faith can get you in a lot of trouble, so I am eternally grateful to those citizens who take it upon themselves to actually do something.

    To see the chart and links to the AG site where these numbers come from, visit WaylandTransparency.com
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Blaming the reporters of these violations is, in essence, shooting the messenger. It is not their fault.
    I have never once "blamed the reporters." Rather, I've said that it's possible that other towns commit violations at the same level but have fewer reporters.

    That's beside the point, however. John, your initial post was immature and petty. You attacked the five members of the School Committee (who ALL voted to enter the executive session in question) by pointing to a flawed opinion by the Office of the Attorney General and offering zero substance of your own.

    I actually read the opinion. (I encourage you to do the same.) As I explained in my original post above (#2), they argued that the School Committee was in violation of the Open Meeting Law in three ways, all technicalities.

    I'd love to hear your take on the specifics of the opinion. It baffles me that you, the self-proclaimed arbiter of transparency (my characterization), so often act so anti-transparently. You don't hesitate to post items with negative connotations, yet you too frequently fail to share why you find those items to be important. And you are hyper-selective in the "facts" you "report."

    Keep trying to change the subject, John. But don't expect it to ever work. You always give up before I do, because where we disagree, you never have facts or reason on your side. I refuse to let your unwarranted bashing stand unaddressed.

    [crickets chirping]

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    The number of determinations in Wayland: 16 / The average number among our peers: 1.
    The number of those that the AG determined to be a violation in Wayland: 12 / The average number among our peers: 0.3
    The number of those serious enough to warrant a fine for Wayland: 2 / The average number among our peers: 0.
    Out of roughly 350 towns in the Commonwealth, only 3 other towns have ever been fined - once each.


    Yes, we really do have a problem here. Blaming the reporters of these violations is, in essence, shooting the messenger. It is not their fault. It is the fault of the board members who repeatedly break the law. There is no way to spin this to make it seem OK. It is NOT OK.

    The chart contains the following (relatively minor overall) errors:
    1. it omits Brookline (1/3)
    2. it lists Lexington as 2/2, should be 1/2
    3. it lists Wayland as 12/16, should be 12/17

    Quality of complaints: Complaints in other towns are often poorly executed


    It must be noted that some of these were poorly filed, not necessary non-violations (and they indicate the quality of complaints - let's give our Wayland complainants their due - our complaints are simply better done!)

    For example, the 9/4/12 determination in favor of the Manchester-by-the-Sea was filed more than 30 days after alleged violation, and so was not investigated. This is not saying there was not a violation, just that the OML complaint wasn't valid. Same with the 4/30/12 determination in favor of Manchester-by-the-Sea. The 6/8/11 Manchester-by-the-Sea finding actually does seem to find a violation, but considers it closed because it was already resolved -- so I'd say it's fairer to either not count this one at all, or call it a violation. The 3/12/12 decision in favor of Cohasset was another non-investigation. I only looked at a few others beyond this - this is clearly the general trend.

    Quantity of Complaints: Other towns are getting a pass


    Are complaints being filed in Wayland that aren't be filed elsewhere? Of course! Here's an example: I just randomly selected Sudbury, and went to the first posted agenda on their home page. It's this: http://www.sudbury.ma.us/documents/download.asp?id=9807

    Would this not result in an OML complaint for lack of specificity? What about the BOH nursing position? Are they hiring, deciding how many positions they need, talking about salaries, discussing job description? Doesn't this make you want to just file a complaint yourself?!

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    I am very glad to be living in a town with active citizens who serve as watchdogs and take action when they perceive a violation. Imagine living in a town where nobody gave a damn! It's sad enough here, where only 30% of registered voters actually come out and vote, but imagine living in a town where nobody paid any attention whatsoever to their town government.
    Since you started on a course to comparing vs. peer towns, I thought it worth a look to see how "sad enough" it is that we get 30% turnout typically in our local elections. This exercise turns out to be time-consuming, so for the sake of expediency, I looked at the five towns that showed up on both our FinCom and School Committee lists. Feel free to expand on this with additional data.

    Wayland has particularly high voter engagement:


    Most recent elections posted on Town Clerk's website of each town:

    Town Turnout Notes
    Wayland 34%
    Sudbury 26% Sudbury's election included contested races for Selectmen, Assessors, School Committee, L-S School Committee and a Prop 2 1/2 override
    Lincoln 21%
    Weston 20% Weston's election included contested races for BOS, Moderator
    and Recreation, race and a 2 1/2 override
    Concord 17%
    Carlisle 4% Carlisle's prior year was 19%


    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    That type of indifference and blind faith can get you in a lot of trouble, so I am eternally grateful to those citizens who take it upon themselves to actually do something.


    Eternally Grateful or finding it frivolous?

    John, when I filed an Open Meeting Law complaint, you called it frivolous, even though the AG did find a violation, and even found that the actions of one of the selectmen appeared to be intentional. I didn't feel you were "eternally grateful" to me. I feel you are eternally grateful when the complaints are aligned with your political positions, not just when there is actual watchdogging going on.

    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 05-06-2014 at 07:10 PM. Reason: correction to Sudbury's numbers; had posted 2013, updated to 2014; clarification of AG's wording

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    Note: I tried to find one easy table with local election turnout, but no one seems to have collected and published such a thing. I did, however, find this article about local election turnout: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/ar...08146/?Start=1

    Wayland seems to be the gold standard of voter engagement. Not that I think we should settle for 34%, just that maybe we don't want to specifically bash Wayland for this, when it clearly vastly outpaces our neighboring towns. We had 51% turnout for our last override vote in 2008.

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    Also, our last Override vote was in 2008! That certainly beats the every-other-year cycle we were in for a while.

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