MNPA Annual Meeting Set for Nov. 29


The annual meeting of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association is scheduled for Nov. 29, 2007, at Anthony’s Pier Four in Boston. This year’s featured luncheon speaker is Margaret H. Marshall, chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, who will speak on courts and the news media and take questions from the audience. A morning panel will focus on legislative proposals to reform the Massachusetts open meeting law. Panelists will include Robert J. Ambrogi, MNPA executive director; Robert W. Ritchie, Esq., head of the Attorney General’s Municipal Division; and Thomas J. Urbelis, Esq., past president of the City Solicitors and Town Counsel Association.

The day begins with an MNPA business meeting at 10 a.m. The open meeting panel is at 11 a.m. At noon is a cocktail reception, followed by the luncheon at 12:30. Tickets are $60. Reservations may be made using this form.

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.”

MNPA Files Open Meeting Reform Bill

South Deerfield Rep. Stephen Kulik has filed an MNPA-backed bill to strengthen the enforcement provisions of the state’s open meeting laws. The bill, which has been docketed as HD 2937, would authorize courts to impose civil fines of $500 on government officials who violate the law and to award attorneys’ fees to citizens who bring actions to enforce the law. Other legislators who have so far signed on as co-sponsors are: Rep. Peter V. Kocot of Northampton, Rep. John W. Scibak of South Hadley, Rep. William M. Strauss of Mattapoisett, Sen. Stephen M. Brewer of Barre, Rep. Jay Barrows of Mansfield, and Rep. David P. Linsky of Natick.

The text of the bill as filed provides:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. Section 23B of Chapter 39 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2002 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking the 14th paragraph and inserting in its place the following paragraph:—

The court may impose a civil fine against the governmental body of up to one thousand dollars and a civil fine of up to five hundred dollars against each attending member of the governmental body for each meeting held in violation of this section. The fine shall not be imposed against any member of the governmental body who is recorded in opposition to the government act that is found in violation of the open meeting law. When a court finds that a meeting was held in violation of this section, it shall award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs against such governmental body. In addition, the court may assess reasonable attorney’s fees and costs against such governmental body where the court finds that:

1. after receiving notice of the filing of a complaint authorized by this section, the governmental body opens to the public any meeting or opens to the public the records of any such meeting, and

2. the requested meeting or public record are described in the complaint, and

3. the requested meeting or public record had been requested in writing by the complainant before filing the complaint, and

4. before the complaint was filed, the governmental body or custodian of the record had refused to open to the public the requested meeting or to make the requested public record available to the complainant.

SECTION 2. Section 11A ½ of Chapter 30A, of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2002 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding thereto as the last paragraph reading as follows:

The court may impose a civil fine against the governmental body of up to one thousand dollars and a civil fine of up to five hundred dollars against each attending member of the governmental body for each meeting held in violation of this section. The fine shall not be imposed against any member of the governmental body who is recorded in opposition to the government act that is found in violation of the open meeting law. When a court holds that a meeting was held in violation of this section, it shall award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs against such governmental body. In addition, the court may assess reasonable attorney’s fees and costs against such governmental body where the count finds that:

1. after receiving notice of the filing of a complaint authorized by this section, the governmental body opens to the public any meeting or opens to the public the records of any such meeting, and

2. the requested meeting or public record are described in the complaint, and

3. the requested meeting or public record had been requested in writing by the complainant before filing the complaint, and

4. before the complaint was filed, the governmental body or custodian of the record had refused to open to the public the requested meeting or to make the requested public record available to the complainant.

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 info-at-masspublishers.org 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.