Dave Miller on the Open Meeting Law

Mr. Editor

OPEN MEETING LAW COMPLAINT

Recently, I joined in the Open Meeting Law [OML] Complaint filed in Superior Court alleging that our Board of Selectmen [BOS] have, by their pattern of behavior, both technically and in spirit, disregarded that law designed to assure "…that meetings of public bodies be open to the public…" [Atty General's Open Meeting Guide].

While I have always been reluctant to seek outside help in resolving Lynnfield affairs, the attitude of the BOS as expressed by Chairman Nelson during their meeting on Nov 3, 2014 to present an "Update on Town Administrator Search" was just too much to take. Not only was the Agenda item misleading and insufficient notice, when asked to permit public input to the selection of the applicant(s) for Town Administrator, Chairman Nelson stated that the public was there to observe and not participate. Essentially this means the public had no input concerning a position that is not elected, is immune from the OML and yet substantially affects the vast majority, if not all, of Town affairs. Furthermore, Town Administrator business is conducted in private without public oversight. I realized, based on this and prior similar events, the only way to get the BOS’ attention and change their behavior was through outside intervention.

I do not believe, that once elected, the Selectmen should hubristically ignore the public they are sworn to serve. Our long standing form of Lynnfield Government is founded on public participation through Town Meeting and open public input to that government through the various Boards and Committees. Most, if not all, of the various other Town Boards and Committees follow this practice and until April of 2013, the BOS consistently did the same. Now the BOS ignores this history and perverts the true intent of the OML when following it is not "convenient", often choosing to "hide" behind the Town Administrator OML immunity shield through individual Selectman/Town Administrator private meetings. If, as citizens, we believe in our traditional form of government then we have to protect it when it goes awry and take steps to bring it back on track even if this process is uncomfortable. If this is not what we want, we should promote and vote for a Charter revision which supports a different type of governance.

My purpose and hope is that the BOS will encourage and embrace this most basic democratic principle and open up all their proceedings, and those of the Town Administrator, to active open public participation/input. This joint government/citizen collaboration will provide the best resolutions to the issues that affect our Town life.

David Miller, former Selectman and Moderator

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