I consider myself a responsible and law-abiding person. I tend to err on the conservative side in terms of legal interpretations and do not “push the envelope” on tax savings or other manoeuvers that some might label “shrewd” or “clever”. I am that way, because I like to sleep peacefully at night without nightmares about my possible assignment to involuntary residence in a penal colony. So, I bear the responsibility of upholding the spirit and letter of a difficult legislative imposition on my behavior whose legal purpose is to clear smoke-filled rooms where deals were once struck outside of the public’s sight and to move those deals to the open chambers of transparent, properly noticed meeting places where municipal sausage can be made, out loud, in full sight of all who care to watch or listen. Voters can then re-elect or “can” the sausage makers if they don’t like what they see.
That legal burden is the Open Meeting Law. It applies to elected officials in Cities and Towns, and their Commissions, Councils, Boards and Committees, (whether appointed or elected) and their sub-committees, etc. The Law is noble in its purpose, but rankles in its coverage. Our wise State Legislators have imposed it on local officials in the State, but, more cunningly than wisely, have excluded themselves from its purview, in a move reminiscent of the healthcare exceptions made by and for our national leadership while they imposed less generous healthcare programs on the rest of us!
On Village 14, there have been many threads on which I have been silent. Not because I don’t have an opinion. I have learned many facts since becoming a member of the Proto-Waban Area Council during its formation and many more since serving and continuing to serve as the Area Council’s first President. I have learned that there are some very knowledgeable people who understand the intricacies of the Open Meeting Law and some others whose opinions and actions might expose them to complaints of OML infractions to the Attorney General. I consult the resources I recognize as knowledgeable when I have a question.
The Attorney General has not yet ruled on whether conversations on a blog are OML violations. In my conservative approach to the interpretation of this Law, I will not speak out on issues that I believe are of either known or possible interest to the Waban Area Council, since I am a member of that Council and might have the opportunity to deliberate on an issue which I have discussed in public view.
I believe that the legal determination that has resulted in others speaking on local blogs about their decisions is shaky and questionable. My reasoning: even if only one member of a Board, Committee or Commission speaks, the others would be able to read the single blogger’s thoughts and to be influenced in a non-public (“non-noticed”) setting. (Definition: Under the OML, a non-noticed meeting is one that has not been legally publically announced with an attached agenda at least 48 hours before the meeting occurs.) Until the Attorney General rules otherwise, I will continue to behave cautiously and with restraint on the blogs. But, if you want to know my opinion, ask me in private…not in an e-mail or a blog and not with a recorder in hand! Then I can throw off the shackles of OML and tell you what I really think! If you are not on a local public body that will deliberate on the OML, feel free to tell me what you think of the OML!