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.
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.
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.
The MNPA’s op-ed calling for the legislature to act on open meeting reform appears in today’s Boston Herald: No Democracy in the Dark.
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 by Massachusetts newspapers:
The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association has voted to endorse the Massachusetts Free Flow of Information Act. The bill (Senate Docket 2406) would protect members of the news media in Massachusetts from being compelled to reveal sources, notes and other materials used in their reporting.
MNPA President Kay Berenson, publisher of The Recorder newspaper in Greenfield, said, “This bill is about recognizing and protecting the vital role journalists play in protecting the public’s access to the truth about government, corporations and other important institutions. I encourage legislators to pass it.”
Senate President Robert E. Travaglini submitted the bill in October. It was drafted by an ad hoc committee of news media representatives chaired by Charles J. Kravetz, vice president of news at NECN. MNPA members who served on the committee were Alfred S. Larkin Jr., executive vice president of The Boston Globe, Larry A. McDermott, publisher of The Republican, and Robert J. Ambrogi, MNPA executive director.
Based on bills proposed by the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Associaton, state Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral (D-New Bedford), chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, yesterday unveiled major legislation to reform Massachusetts’ open meeting law. “Today, in an age of government spying, secret wiretapping and increasing government secrecy, we must renew our commitment to openness,” Rep Cabral said.
The reform legislation has five main initiatives:
– It would strengthen the language of the open meeting law to include current communication technology. Real-time electronic communication between government bodies would be subject to the same rules as meetings held in person.
– It would create an Open Meeting Law Board to oversee complaints and violations of the open meeting law and oversee a new Office of Government Accountability, housed in the Office of the Attorney General, to provide increased resources to investigating violations.
– For the first time in this state, it would impose civil fines on individual members of boards who violate the law.
– Boards subject to the open meeting law would be required to post meeting agendas as part of required meeting notices.
– It would close some exceptions to the current law which allow for closed executive sessions.
The bill, based on legislation filed last year by the MNPA, has not been assigned a number.
More Sunshine Week coverage from Massachusetts newspapers:
See also: Round-up of Sunshine Week coverage.