Sunday, January 11, 2009

Will this meeting be open to the public and press?

It looks like the Concord Board of Education and administration are trying, once again, to set up another breakfast meeting between a number of local government bodies.
According to an email I received a few minutes ago, the board, city council, city government officials, and the Legislative delegation, have all been invited to attend a breakfast meeting at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 26, in the professional development room at Conant Elementary School.
No word on what the subject matter will be or whether the public or press will be allowed to attend, although there are rumors that it is an "invitation only" meeting.
However, if there is a quorum of both the board and council, and public policy is discussed, this meeting should be open to the press and public.
According to 91A, there are a limited number of exemptions by which the press and the public can be kept out of a meeting of a quorum of any elected body. Discussion of litigation, employee contract negotiations, and personnel issues such as reprimands or disciplinary procedures, are just a few of the exemptions. Pretty much everything else needs to be done in the light of day, so to speak.
This meeting comes on the heels of another meeting scheduled in the middle of last month which was abruptly canceled after a number of people complained that the public would not be allowed to attend [some are saying that the meeting was canceled because it was not properly noticed].
If the meeting is a closed one, it begs the question: What does the administration and board have to hide from the public and the press?

Council meets with legislators tomorrow
According to city sources, the Legislative delegation has been invited to attend Monday's city council meeting to discuss a number of issues for about an hour or so. I'm sure state and federal aid, and the state of the New Hampshire and local economy, will be discussed by all involved. The meeting will be held in the council chambers at 7 p.m. and is open to the public and press.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the school district have to post a public notice of this meeting to comply with the Right-To-Know law? After all it is assumed that a quorum will be present. It certainly sounds like a meeting where interesting "business" will be discussed.

Ben Venator said...

I suspect that there will only be three attendees from the CBE, 4 if you count the superintendent, it will not meet the quorum and will not be open. I suspect that the best outcome will be that Rick gets some support for some of his other legistlative objectives for backing off a bit.

A fascinating part of the context of all this is that the state matching of school building funds was part of the 60 million in cuts that was announced in November and may be cut again. The logic that new is cheaper because the state pays for a big part of it is going to come under massive attack in the current economic state.

Tony said...

Oh, great point Ben about the school construction money. You're right.
But, if a good chunk of councilors are there, it will be a quorum with that body and then, they would have to have it open to the press and public. That said, what good is it to have a meeting with only three members of the BOE? That seems like a dumb move, doesn't it?

Ben Venator said...

Tony - when you have the votes you call the shots. Ardinger, Devorsey and Patterson just got elected to leadership. As long as they reach out to the rest of the board, and point out the obvious fact that it is easier to discuss these issues in a non-public forum and that they will keep everyone in the loop, then it would be foolish to have others attend.

Tony said...

Good point Ben. But if a quorum of the city council shows up, it would be against the law to keep the meeting closed. What kind of power do the three of them have over the council? Eh, not much, if any ...

Benn Venator said...

If you do not invite enough folks to qualify for a quorum of any of the respective bodies, then you have no issues.

Thanks for keeping on top of all of this. In general I think this actually reflects well on the nature of politics in Concord. In other communities you might well be reporting with resignation about another meeting that should have been public, but was explicitly organized in such a way as to avoid the technical requirements of the law.

Anonymous said...

I know Councilman Cohen reads these posts so I would like to ask him where he stands on the bill to give the voters some control over school board spending.

Anonymous said...

Tony what are the laws relative to posting notices of public meetings

Anonymous said...

WELL....What happened at the meeting?

Ben (not Benn) Venator said...

So what happened?