Saturday, August 26, 2017

Worcester, we have an open meeting law problem

No, it's not with the City Council's weekly items "under suspension" that aren't time sensitive and should be put on an agenda, 'though that is absolutely a problem.

It's with this strategic plan that was announced with little information at the end of last school year. Other than the single public input session in July, there has been not a peep, not a posting, about it. The scuttlebutt is, however, that they've been meeting.

And that's not only procedurally a problem: it's legally a problem.

The Open Meeting Law requires posted public meetings not only of public bodies (like the school committee) but also of committees appointed to advise those public bodies. Thus the strategic planning committee should be meeting in public, posted sessions, and, as evidenced by the clerk's postings, they are not.

"But there's an exception!" someone will object: a individual officer may have an advisory committee that does not meet in public session, so long as the body is advising on something under that officer's purview; the AG's FAQ gives as an example a superintendent's advisory committee on the appointment of a principal. Appointing a principal falls entirely under the purview of the superintendent; a committee can meet privately to advise a superintendent on that.

The strategic plan is quite explicitly not under the purview of the superintendent, however. School committees in Massachusetts:
... shall establish educational goals and policies for the schools in the district
That setting of direction is what the strategic plan does.
This is an advisory committee to the school committee. They have no business meeting privately.

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