Everett only in partial compliance to state’s open meeting laws

Only six sets of minutes out of 25 posted, some missing information

By JOSH RESNEK

Boston has been called “the Cradle of Liberty.” I think that label is a bit narrow.

The Battle of Lexington and Concord, during which “the shot heard ‘round the world” was actually fired, didn’t occur within the geographic confines of the City of Boston. Massachusetts is the actual Cradle of Liberty. From the Revolution of 1689 – which lead to the Governor of the New England Dominion, Sir Edmund Andros, being ousted from office to Shays’ Rebellion (whose leaders became President George Washington’s first use of the federal pardon) to being ground zero for the abolitionist movement to Romney Care – the progenitor of the Affordable Care Act – Massachusetts has always been at the forefront of political thought and good government practices.

In 2020, we can count on Everett under the DeMaria administration not doing the legal and right thing, but rather, the politically charged thing.

A pall, like a dark and brooding storm cloud, hangs over Everett.

Is there an effort made to keep people in the dark?

It appears that way.

In Massachusetts, we have something called the Open Meeting Law, which is designed “to ensure transparency in the deliberations on which public policy is based.”

Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office published a neat little booklet entitled the Open Meeting Law Guide, on October 6, 2017. Apparently, the City of Everett never received that memo. The Guide states that “public bodies are required to create and maintain accurate minutes of all meetings.” It further states that public bodies are required “to create and approve minutes in a timely manner. A ‘timely manner’ is considered to be within the next three public body meetings or 30 days from the date of the meeting, whichever is later, unless the public body can show good cause for further delay.”

The Guide further states that “existing minutes, whether in approved or draft form, must be made available to a member of the public, upon request, within 10 days of the request.”

As of December 1st, the Everett City Council has held twenty-five (25) meetings since January 1, 2020. Yet only six (6) sets of minutes have been posted. There have been no minutes posted for the following meetings:

February 10, 2020 February 24, 2020 May 11, 2020 May 28, 2020 June 8, 2020 July 27, 2020 July 30, 2020 September 3, 2020 September 14, 2020 September 16, 2020 September 28, 2020 September 30, 2020 October 13, 2020 October 26, 2020 November 5, 2020 November 9, 2020 December 7, 2020.

Oddly enough, the minutes of the November 23, 2020, meet- ing have been posted. That was the meeting in which all but two City Councilors – Fred Capone and Gerly Adrian – fell into line and sanctioned the mayor’s demand that he become a voting member of the School Committee.

A review of the meeting minutes that have been posted to the City of Everett’s Agenda Center, it can be concluded the min- utes are lacking, both in required content and substance. The Attorney General’s Guide to the Open Meeting Law specifies what information must be included in the minutes:

“Date, time, and place of the meeting; Members present or absent; The decision made and actions taken, including a record of all votes; A summary of the discussions on each subject; A list of all documents and exhibits used at the meeting; and The names of any members who participated remotely.”

The minutes of the November 23, 2020, meeting do contain the date, time, and place of the meeting.

They do not contain the names of members present and absent.

They do contain a record of the decisions, but not the required record of each vote.

They do not contain even the barest hint of a summary of the discussions or deliberations.

The minutes do not contain a listing of any documents or exhibits used at the meeting.

They also do not contain a listing of those members participating remotely.

Two (2) out of six (6) requirements met. That’s a 33.3% compliance rate. As a baseball batting average .333 is pretty good. As a success rate for the city, it is decidedly poor.

Furthermore, a cursory review of the meeting minutes that have been posted in 2020 would lead one to conclude that, whoever is in charge of preparing the minutes for the City Council meetings took the Council Meeting Agenda, as a Microsoft word document, merely added one (1) line to the description of each agenda item: the result of the vote, either “passed” or to whom the agenda items were referred – Mayors Office, CFO, sponsor, etc. No thought to keeping the public informed. How little information can we provide is the litmus test here? In what universe could this be considered an accurate record of what has transpired at the City Council meeting? The person drafting the minutes does not list the name of the person making a motion or the name of the member who provided a second.

Several months ago, in the Everett Leader Herald, we reported that the Everett School Committee has only posted one (1) set of meeting minutes in the past three years. That information is not entirely correct. If you check the City of Everett Agenda Center which is the official record of the City’s proceedings, that is true. However, if you check the School Committee’s webpage, minutes of several recent meetings are posted. And these minutes appear to thoroughly comply with the requirements of the Open Meeting Law as detailed in the Attorney General’s Guide.

• Date, time, and place of the meeting;
• Members present or absent;
• The decision made and actions taken, including a record of all votes;
• A summary of the discussions on each subject;
• A list of all documents and exhibits used at the meeting; and
• The names of any members who participated remotely. If the School Committee can provide that information, completely and quickly (well within the thirty (30) day period), why does the City Council’s Office continually fail to do the same?

If the administration is trying to hide something – and things do seem to disappear at City Hall with alarming frequency – are you, the voters, going to continue to contentedly stand by while this happens?

The people of this city should expect more information as the law requires.

To do any less is to fail to follow the law.

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