Amherst Mulls Open Meeting Fines

Reporter Mary Carey writes in the Amherst Bulletin that the town may establish fines for members of local boards who violate the open meeting law. The state law imposes no such fines on individual board members. A bill promoted by the MNPA would authorize courts to impose such fines. Carey writes:

“Town Meeting member Larry Kelley said Amherst should establish its own fines — $50 for a first offense, $100 for the second and $500 for the third offense. He has collected enough signatures to put the question on the May 7 Town Meeting warrant.”

McDermott Elected MNPA President

At its recent annual meeting, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association elected Larry A. McDermott to a two-year term as president, effective Jan. 1. McDermott is publisher and CEO of The Republican, a daily regional newspaper covering most of Western Massachusetts. He was named publisher in January 1999 after serving as editor for eight years.

Also elected to two-year terms as officers were:

– 1st Vice President: Oreste D’Arconte, publisher, The Sun Chronicle.
– 2nd Vice President: Gregory R. Rush, associate publisher and COO, Community Newspaper Company.
– Treasurer: Peter Haggerty, publisher, Daily Times-Chronicle.
– Secretary: Alfred S. Larkin Jr., senior vice president, The Boston Globe.

McDermott’s journalism career includes 18 years with The Associated Press and 16 years at newspapers in Michigan and Massachusetts. From 1970 to 1988, he worked for the AP as a reporter, political correspondent, bureau chief and corporate executive. Before coming to the Springfield newspaper, McDermott was publisher of The Bay City Times, a daily newspaper in Bay City, Mich. Both are owned by Advance Publications, which publishes 26 daily newspapers, 81 weekly newspapers and more than 50 business journals around the country.

McDermott joined Advance in 1988 to organize and manage a statewide news service for the company’s eight newspapers in Michigan. Later he created and launched a system for computer-assisted journalism for the group. His experience as a reporter included sports writing, features and political analysis. As an editor and manager, he directed AP news operations in Arkansas, Minnesota and Michigan.

McDermott and Supreme Judicial Court Justice John M. Greaney are co-chairs of the Massachusetts Judiciary-Media Committee of the Supreme Judicial Court. He is a corporator of the Springfield Museums at the Quadrangle, a former member of the board of directors of the Greater Springfield YMCA and a former member of the board of Springfield public television station WGBY-TV Channel 57. He is a former chairman of the Regional Education and Business Alliance.

Gov.-elect Patrick Addresses Annual Meeting

Gov-elect Deval Patrick addressed the annual luncheon meeting of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association today. As Associated Press reports, Patrick urged attendees to “put your cynicism aside” and embrace the hopefulness expressed by voters in the recent gubernatorial election.

At left, Patrick dines with MNPA officers before speaking. With him are Larry A. McDermott, incoming president and publisher of the Springfield Republican; Al Larkin, Boston Globe senior vice president; William T. Kennedy, past president and publisher of the New Bedford Standard Times; Patrick; Peter Haggerty, treasurer and publisher of the Woburn Times-Chronicle; and Kay Berenson, current president and publisher of the Greenfield Recorder. Just visible behind Berenson is Martin Langeveld, former treasurer and now publisher of the Reformer in Brattleboro, Vt.

Annual Meeting Set for Nov. 30

The annual meeting of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association will be held Nov. 30 at Anthony’s Pier 4 in Boston. The day begins with the business meeting at 10 a.m., followed by a panel discussion at 11, reception at noon and luncheon at 12:30.

Once we receive confirmation from our invited speakers, more information will be posted.

If you have not received a registration form, please e-mail us at to have one sent.

Judge orders town to redo lawyer search

Finding that the town of Westborough, Mass., violated the open meeting law when it brought forth only one candidate from a field of 24 to be the new town attorney, a judge ordered the town to consider three finalists in an open meeting.

Reporter Sarah Menesale writes in the MetroWest Daily News that Worcester Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Locke ruled that selectman must consider the three finalist candidates in an open meeting and make public the minutes of a Sept. 7 meeting at which the candidates were discussed.

The open meeting law exempts meetings for preliminary screening of job applicants. In winnowing the pool from 24 candidates to one finalist, Judge Locke found, the town went to far. “Preliminary implies there will be a final selection process among those who have survived the earlier review,” he concluded, according to Menesale’s report.

Worcester District Attorney John Conte filed the lawsuit Sept. 29 after receiving a complaint filed by MetroWest Daily News Editor Richard Lodge.

DA Says Town Violated Meeting Law

The Worcester, Mass., district attorney’s office has ruled that a search committee for a new Westborough town counsel violated the state open meeting law when it narrowed a field of 24 applicants to just one, who was then recommended to the Board of Selectmen and hired, the MetroWest Daily News reports today. Assistant DAs Patricia C. Smith and Robert Bender sent a letter to the selectmen saying:

“It is the opinion of the District Attorney’s Office that the Search Committee narrowed the field of candidates in executive session beyond what is permitted as preliminary screening. Passing over all but a single candidate in executive session is not ‘preliminary screening’ and is prohibited.”

MetroWest Daily News reporter Sarah Menesale first reported about the closed search process on Sept. 15. At the time, the paper’s editor-in-chief, Richard K. Lodge, wrote to Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte to register a formal complaint about the search process. Lodge wrote, in part:

“Our complaint stems from our belief that Open Meeting Law was violated when the search committee evaded the requirement they settle on a number of finalists, who would then be publicly identified and interviewed in an open session. The search committee went from 24 applicants in secret to a single finalist in public, thereby shutting out any public access to the process or the qualifications of a pool of finalists.”

With the DA’s ruling, the search committee will now be required to go back and recommend at least three candidates to the Board of Selectman to be publicly considered in an open session, Menesale reports.

Editorial: Bring open meeting bill to the floor

An editorial in today’s New Bedford Standard-Times calls for legislative action on a bill to reform the state’s Open Meeting Law. The bill, crafted by Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, is based on a package of bills originally filed by the MNPA. The editorial says:

“The primary beneficiary of the Cabral bill is the ordinary citizen who relies on open government to be sure that taxpayer money is well spent by elected and appointed officials. Citizens who would like to see this reform bill become law should contact their local legislator and Rep. DeLeo, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to push for action this session.”

More of Sunshine Week coverage

More of Sunshine Week coverage by Massachusetts newspapers:

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