Paul Babin, reporter with the Sandwich Broadsider, reported this week (prior to last night’s school committee meeting) that the committee would have to revote the superintendent’s contract.
See the entire story here.
The disturbing part of Babin’s article centers around the Open Meeting Law (OML) and what is public versus privileged information.
Committee member Shaun Cahill questioned why the local media knew of Shack’s decision before the school committee. He said he heard about the ruling on the radio an hour and a half before the committee was notified.
“We talk about people spreading gossip in this town—this is a classic example of people getting a little bit of information and running with it.
“I hope that doesn’t happen again whoever the guilty party is that’s out there leaking this information. This is privileged information that’s supposed to go out to school committee members,” Cahill said.
Cahill encouraged the committee to challenge Shack’s ruling. He said the Open Meeting law is designed to prevent public officials from conducting business behind closed doors and that the committee obviously wasn’t trying to do that.
“There was no notion that [the meeting] was done behind anybody’s back as everyone at the [April 28] meeting voted in favor of the recess to meet 48 hours later,” Cahill said.
Cahill’s summary of the OML’s intent is essentially correct, but in order to ensure that scheduled meetings are known by and accessible to concerned citizens, a key component of the OML is the requirement for public postings at least 48 hours before convening.
His assumption is that everyone who is interested in the activities of the school committee either attends their meetings or watches them live on cable access. That, of course, is not the case. Some people have satellite, some people have rabbit ears, and some people have other things to do on Wednesday nights.
For these people to know about a scheduled meeting, absent any other radio, television or newspaper accounts, they can rely on the meeting notice being posted at the town clerk’s office. There was no such notice posted. Even if it had been posted, it wouldn’t have met the 48-hour requirement.
What bothers me more, much more, is the notion that the Assistant District Attorney’s decision on an OML violation is “privileged” information. That is a public document, folks.
Matt Pitta, news director at WXTK, had been chasing this story since it was reported that ADA Shack was reviewing the Friday meeting for propriety. Pitta called the DA’s office every day inquiring about the status of Shack’s investigation.
When Pitta called on the day that Shack released his findings, Pitta acquired a copy of the report and wrote and aired the news story.
There was no “leak.”
There was no “gossip.”
There was no “privilege.”