Open Meetings, Closed Doors

The School Finance Commission is shown at its most recent meeting at city hall. School committeeman David Ela is addressing city and school officials following the executive session discussing the Open Meeting Law violation led against the mayor and the commission by the Leader Herald.

Violation quickly and quietly discussed by commission

By Lorenzo Recupero

An Open Meeting Law violation filed with the Attorney General’s Office by the Leader Herald against the mayor and the School Finance Commission which he heads, was discussed in an executive session behind closed doors as suggested by the mayor last Thursday.

The closed door discussion, held in the City Council conference room about how the city is going to answer the Attorney General, lasted about 15 minutes.

It ended with the commission members filing out of the conference room and taking their seats inside the chamber.

There was no discussion about the preceding, or what was decided, or whether or not the Leader Herald would be notified of its decision.

The executive session on the 27th was intended to give shape and form to the mayor’s response to the Attorney General’s office, in this instance, to Attorney Carrie Benedon, the Assistant Attorney General, Director, the Division of Open Government.

On September 4, Benedon received a request from the commission seeking an extension of time for the City of Everett to respond to the allegations made by the Leader Herald.

Benedon granted the request “with the hope the parties involved can use the additional time to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of the complaint.”

Benedon asked that she be informed of the commission’s decision by October 4.

Publisher Joshua Resnek led the complaint after alleging he was tossed from an open meeting of the commission last July.

He alleged that the mayor ended the meeting abruptly, ordered him to leave and then said: “We are going to have a private discussion.”

Resnek walked to the door and when he stepped into the corridor at city hall, the door was slammed shut behind him by Chief Procurement Agent.

Resnek alleges that a discussion then took place with all the commission members present.

School Committeeman Marcony Almeida-Barros removed himself from the mayor’s conference room before the discussion ensued behind closed doors.

Sources who wished to remain unnamed said the mayor went into a discussion about the Leader Herald’s invoices for school department advertising.

“I don’t want them paid. They are to get no more money for their advertising,” the mayor said to Chief Procurement Agent.

The Chief Procurement Agent shook his head in agreement, and said, “OK,” according to the sources.

Eighteen city officials attended the meeting.

From that night on, the Leader Herald was not paid for its school department advertising.

Its invoices were held by the purchasing agent and remained unpaid and were not paid for about 4 weeks, and will not be paid.

During this period the Leader Herald published the school department advertisements despite not being paid for them.

It is expected the mayor, who does not speak with representatives of the Leader

Herald, will assert that he ended the meeting legally and that no city business was done when the door was slammed shut on Resnek after he was ordered to leave the meeting.

However, the requirement of the Open Meeting Law reveals that a meeting can be ended but requires a motion to adjourn and then a vote of the commission.

There was no motion or vote for adjournment to end the Open Meeting.

The mayor ended it on his whim, as reported in the Leader Herald.

The mayor then ordered Resnek to leave the room: “You’re out of here,” he said, again, as reported in the Leader Herald.

When the door was slammed shut, the mayor went into a tirade against the Leader Herald, according to sources who wished to remain unnamed for fear of his reprisal.

Sources claim the mayor ordered the Chief Procurement Agent not to honor the Leader Herald’s invoices for school department advertising.

The Open Meeting law requires an open door, a public meeting, for such public policy decisions to be made.

Efforts to reach City Clerk Sergio Cornelio for a copy of the tape from recording of the executive session last Thursday were unsuccessful.

Cornelio is required to keep tape recordings of the hearings and to archive them, according to the law.

Cornelio apparently has notes he took from the tape.

Again, efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

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