Chariho School Parents’ Forum

February 6, 2008

ESP contract negotiations online

Filed under: 1,contract negotiations — Editor @ 10:12 pm

Not all of the negotiation information is available – I have posted what is on the right column – “ESP contract negotiations

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11 Comments »

  1. The September 29th minutes imply that Mr. Polouski, as the subcommittee chair, shared information with the union. Other than noting that Ms. Jennings made the accusation and Mr. Polouski stepped down as chair, no details are given. Why weren’t Mr. Polouski’s “comments” included in the minutes? Did he give the union information that hurt the bargaining position of Chariho?

    I’m glad these minutes are posted. If anyone doubted it, the minutes provide more evidence that Mr. Felkner watches out for the interests of the community. Mr. Petit also seemed a little more determined not to give into the union demands, although he was his typical wishy-washy self. The rest of the committee were cowering in fear every time the union said boo.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 6, 2008 @ 11:54 pm | Reply

  2. Do sealed minutes become available at some point? If so, when?

    As the contract negotiations wound down, I found Mr. Polouski’s stated desire to keep the cost of the third year confidential quite telling. The old fool thinks the public shouldn’t be told how much the School Committee’s inability to negotiate and hold firm is costing taxpayers.

    I am amused about all the fuss about Unfair Labor Practices. Why was the union putting out flyers and public information while Chariho’s School Committee was afraid to say a peep to the bill paying public? Instead of worrying about committee behavior, the smart move would have been to inundate the Dept. of Labor with a few dozen charges against the union. Unfortunately, the School Committee was too busy shaking in their boots and were unable to give as good as they got.

    In the end the union prevailed. We sent children to do a job meant for adults.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 6, 2008 @ 11:55 pm | Reply

  3. The best person to ask your question about sealed minutes becoming available is your Town Solicitor. As far as I know, only the School Committee would be able unseal the minutes. I’m not even sure if the Attorney General or the courts has any say in unsealing the minutes. Perhaps by court order the School Committee would have to unseal them but I’m not sure about that.

    Comment by CharihoParent — February 9, 2008 @ 6:09 am | Reply

  4. In trying to find more information, I came across a study conducted on Rhode Island Open Meeting laws. In evaluating schools for access here’s what the statewide study had to say:

    “The school departments performed almost as well as the city and town clerks did in overall compliance with open records requests. The school departments fulfilled 94.1 percent of the requests, whereas the city and town halls fulfilled 100 percent. The best school departments were Bristol/Warren and Coventry. Both of those departments provided all of the documents requested, both received the highest ratings for courteousness, and both had high-quality minutes and budgets. At the other end of the spectrum, Pawtucket and Chariho each refused more than one request and both were the lowest ratings of any school department for courteousness.”

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 9, 2008 @ 10:59 am | Reply

  5. Reading more from the report, the police departments in all three towns were discourteous and did not comply with the open records laws. Town Clerks in all three towns were courteous. Chariho was the only school district in the entire state to not comply. The School Committee was issued a warning by the Attorney General.

    http://www.accessri.org

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 9, 2008 @ 11:12 am | Reply

  6. Another way to learn about unsealing minutes that are sealed is to read the appropriate sections of the R.I. General Laws, 42-46-3,4,5,6,7. They follow below for your convenient reference.

    TITLE 42
    CHAPTER 42-46

    SECTION 42-46-3
       § 42-46-3  Open meetings. – Every meeting of all public bodies shall be open to the public unless closed pursuant to §§ 42-46-4 and 42-46-5.

    SECTION 42-46-4
       § 42-46-4  Closed meetings. – (a) By open call, a public body may hold a meeting closed to the public upon an affirmative vote of the majority of its members. A meeting closed to the public shall be limited to matters allowed to be exempted from discussion at open meetings by § 42-46-5. The vote of each member on the question of holding a meeting closed to the public and the reason for holding a closed meeting, by a citation to a subdivision of § 42-46-5(a), and a statement specifying the nature of the business to be discussed, shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the meeting. No public body shall discuss in closed session any public matter which does not fall within the citations to § 42-46-5(a) referred to by the public body in voting to close the meeting, even if these discussions could otherwise be closed to the public under this chapter.

       (b) All votes taken in closed sessions shall be disclosed once the session is reopened; provided, however, a vote taken in a closed session need not be disclosed for the period of time during which its disclosure would jeopardize any strategy, negotiation or investigation undertaken pursuant to discussions conducted under § 42-46-5(a).

    SECTION 42-46-5
       § 42-46-5  Purposes for which meeting may be closed – Use of electronic communications – Judicial proceedings – Disruptive conduct. – (a) A public body may hold a meeting closed to the public pursuant to § 42-46-4 for one or more of the following purposes:

       (1) Any discussions of the job performance, character, or physical or mental health of a person or persons provided that such person or persons affected shall have been notified in advance in writing and advised that they may require that the discussion be held at an open meeting.

       Failure to provide such notification shall render any action taken against the person or persons affected null and void. Before going into a closed meeting pursuant to this subsection, the public body shall state for the record that any persons to be discussed have been so notified and this statement shall be noted in the minutes of the meeting.

       (2) Sessions pertaining to collective bargaining or litigation, or work sessions pertaining to collective bargaining or litigation.

       (3) Discussion regarding the matter of security including, but not limited to, the deployment of security personnel or devices.

       (4) Any investigative proceedings regarding allegations of misconduct, either civil or criminal.

       (5) Any discussions or considerations related to the acquisition or lease of real property for public purposes, or of the disposition of publicly held property wherein advanced public information would be detrimental to the interest of the public.

       (6) Any discussions related to or concerning a prospective business or industry locating in the state of Rhode Island when an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the interest of the public.

       (7) A matter related to the question of the investment of public funds where the premature disclosure would adversely affect the public interest. Public funds shall include any investment plan or matter related thereto, including, but not limited to, state lottery plans for new promotions.

       (8) Any executive sessions of a local school committee exclusively for the purposes: (i) of conducting student disciplinary hearings; or (ii) of reviewing other matters which relate to the privacy of students and their records, including all hearings of the various juvenile hearing boards of any municipality; provided, however, that any affected student shall have been notified in advance in writing and advised that he or she may require that the discussion be held in an open meeting.

       Failure to provide such notification shall render any action taken against the student or students affected null and void. Before going into a closed meeting pursuant to this subsection, the public body shall state for the record that any students to be discussed have been so notified and this statement shall be noted in the minutes of the meeting.

       (9) Any hearings on, or discussions of, a grievance filed pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.

       (10) Any discussion of the personal finances of a prospective donor to a library.

       (b) No meeting of members of a public body or use of electronic communication, including telephonic communication and telephone conferencing, shall be used to circumvent the spirit or requirements of this chapter; provided, however, these meetings and discussions are not prohibited.

       (1) Provided, further however, that discussions of a public body via electronic communication, including telephonic communication and telephone conferencing, shall be permitted only to schedule a meeting.

       (2) Provided, further however, that a member of a public body may participate by use of electronic communication or telephone communication while on active duty in the armed services of the United States.

       (3) Provided, further however, that a member of that public body, who has a disability as defined in chapter 87 of title 42 and:

       (i) Cannot attend meetings of that public body solely by reason of his or her disability; and

       (ii) Cannot otherwise participate in the meeting without the use of electronic communication or telephone communication as reasonable accommodation, may participate by use of electronic communication or telephone communication in accordance with the process below.

       (4) The governor’s commission on disabilities is authorized and directed to:

       (i) Establish rules and regulations for determining whether a member of a public body is not otherwise able to participate in meetings of that public body without the use of electronic communication or telephone communication as a reasonable accommodation due to that member’s disability;

       (ii) Grant a waiver that allows a member to participate by electronic communication or telephone communication only if the member’s disability would prevent him/her from being physically present at the meeting location, and the use of such communication is the only reasonable accommodation; and

       (iii) Any waiver decisions shall be a matter of public record.

       (c) This chapter shall not apply to proceedings of the judicial branch of state government or probate court or municipal court proceedings in any city or town.

       (d) This chapter shall not prohibit the removal of any person who willfully disrupts a meeting to the extent that orderly conduct of the meeting is seriously compromised.

    SECTION 42-46-6

       § 42-46-6  Notice. – (a) All public bodies shall give written notice of their regularly scheduled meetings at the beginning of each calendar year. The notice shall include the dates, times, and places of the meetings and shall be provided to members of the public upon request and to the secretary of state at the beginning of each calendar year in accordance with subsection (f).

       (b) Public bodies shall give supplemental written public notice of any meeting within a minimum of forty-eight (48) hours before the date. This notice shall include the date the notice was posted, the date, time and place of the meeting, and a statement specifying the nature of the business to be discussed. Copies of the notice shall be maintained by the public body for a minimum of one year. Nothing contained herein shall prevent a public body, other than a school committee, from adding additional items to the agenda by majority vote of the members. School committees may, however, add items for informational purposes only, pursuant to a request, submitted in writing, by a member of the public during the public comment session of the school committee’s meetings. Said informational items may not be voted upon unless they have been posted in accordance with the provisions of this section. Such additional items shall be for informational purposes only and may not be voted on except where necessary to address an unexpected occurrence that requires immediate action to protect the public or to refer the matter to an appropriate committee or to another body or official.

       (c) Written public notice shall include, but need not be limited to, posting a copy of the notice at the principal office of the public body holding the meeting, or if no principal office exists, at the building in which the meeting is to be held, and in at least one other prominent place within the governmental unit, and electronic filing of the notice with the secretary of state pursuant to subsection (f); provided, that in the case of school committees the required public notice shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the school district under the committee’s jurisdiction; however, ad hoc committees, sub committees and advisory committees of school committees shall not be required to publish notice in a newspaper; however, nothing contained herein shall prevent a public body from holding an emergency meeting, upon an affirmative vote of the majority of the members of the body when the meeting is deemed necessary to address an unexpected occurrence that requires immediate action to protect the public. If an emergency meeting is called, a meeting notice and agenda shall be posted as soon as practicable and shall be electronically filed with the secretary of state pursuant to subsection (e) and, upon meeting, the public body shall state for the record and minutes why the matter must be addressed in less than forty-eight (48) hours and only discuss the issue or issues which created the need for an emergency meeting. Nothing contained herein shall be used in the circumvention of the spirit and requirements of this chapter.

       (d) Nothing within this chapter shall prohibit any public body, or the members thereof, from responding to comments initiated by a member of the public during a properly noticed open forum even if the subject matter of a citizen’s comments or discussions were not previously posted, provided such matters shall be for informational purposes only and may not be voted on except where necessary to address an unexpected occurrence that requires immediate action to protect the public or to refer the matter to an appropriate committee or to another body or official. Nothing contained in this chapter requires any public body to hold an open forum session, to entertain or respond to any topic nor does it prohibit any public body from limiting comment on any topic at such an open forum session. No public body, or the members thereof, may use this section to circumvent the spirit or requirements of this chapter.

       (e) A school committee may add agenda items not appearing in the published notice required by this section under the following conditions:

       (1) The revised agenda is electronically filed with the secretary of state pursuant to subsection (f), and is posted on the school district’s website and the two (2) public locations required by this section at least forty-eight (48) hours in advance of the meeting;

       (2) The new agenda items were unexpected and could not have been added in time for newspaper publication;

       (3) Upon meeting, the public body states for the record and minutes why the agenda items could not have been added in time for newspaper publication and need to be addressed at the meeting;

       (4) A formal process is available to provide timely notice of the revised agenda to any person who has requested that notice, and the school district has taken reasonable steps to make the public aware of this process; and

       (5) The published notice shall include a statement that any changes in the agenda will be posted on the school district’s web site and the two (2) public locations required by this section and will be electronically filed with the secretary of state at least forty-eight (48) hours in advance of the meeting.

       (f) All notices required by this section to be filed with the secretary of state shall be electronically transmitted to the secretary of state in accordance with rules and regulations which shall be promulgated by the secretary of state. This requirement of the electronic transmission and filing of notices with the secretary of state shall take effect one year after this subsection takes effect.

       (g) If a public body fails to transmit notices in accordance with this section, then any aggrieved person may file a complaint with the attorney general in accordance with § 42-46-8.

    SECTION 42-46-7

       § 42-46-7  Minutes. – (a) All public bodies shall keep written minutes of all their meetings. The minutes shall include, but need not be limited to:

       (1) The date, time, and place of the meeting;

       (2) The members of the public body recorded as either present or absent;

       (3) A record by individual members of any vote taken; and

       (4) Any other information relevant to the business of the public body that any member of the public body requests be included or reflected in the minutes.

       (b) A record of all votes taken at all meetings of public bodies, listing how each member voted on each issue, shall be a public record and shall be available, to the public at the office of the public body, within two (2) weeks of the date of the vote. The minutes shall be public records and unofficial minutes shall be available, to the public at the office of the public body, within thirty-five (35) days of the meeting or at the next regularly scheduled meeting, whichever is earlier, except where the disclosure would be inconsistent with §§ 42-46-4 and 42-46-5 or where the public body by majority vote extends the time period for the filing of the minutes and publicly states the reason.

       (c) The minutes of a closed session shall be made available at the next regularly scheduled meeting unless the majority of the body votes to keep the minutes closed pursuant to §§ 42-46-4 and 42-46-5.

       (d) All public bodies within the executive branch of the state government and all state public and quasi-public boards, agencies and corporations shall keep official and/or approved minutes of all meetings of the body and shall file a copy of the minutes of all open meetings with the secretary of state for inspection by the public within thirty-five (35) days of the meeting; provided that this subsection shall not apply to public bodies whose responsibilities are solely advisory in nature.

       (e) All minutes required by this section to be filed with the secretary of state shall be electronically transmitted to the secretary of state in accordance with rules and regulations which shall be promulgated by the secretary of state. This requirement of the electronic transmission and filing of minutes with the secretary of state shall take effect one year after this subsection takes effect. If a public body fails to transmit minutes in accordance with this subsection, then any aggrieved person may file a complaint with the attorney general in accordance with § 42-46-8.

    Comment by Thurman Silks — February 9, 2008 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

  7. Sorry, but I’m not good at interpreting legal mumbo jumbo. Plus it bores me to death and puts me to sleep trying to read and understand that.

    Comment by CharihoParent — February 9, 2008 @ 8:34 pm | Reply

  8. My posting on February 9th at 4:04 in the afternoon of the RI General Laws concerning open meetings failed to include Title 42-46-8, which spells out remedies available to persons or entities aggrieved by violations of the provisions of this chapter. This may be of interest to those who have questions about unsealing minutes that have been sealed.

    SECTION 42-46-8
       § 42-46-8  Remedies available to aggrieved persons or entities. – (a) Any citizen or entity of the state who is aggrieved as a result of violations of the provisions of this chapter may file a complaint with the attorney general. The attorney general shall investigate the complaint and if the attorney general determines that the allegations of the complaint are meritorious he or she may file a complaint on behalf of the complainant in the superior court against the public body.

       (b) No complaint may be filed by the attorney general after one hundred eighty (180) days from the date of public approval of the minutes of the meeting at which the alleged violation occurred, or, in the case of an unannounced or improperly closed meeting, after one hundred eighty (180) days from the public action of a public body revealing the alleged violation, whichever is greater.

       (c) Nothing within this section shall prohibit any individual from retaining private counsel for the purpose of filing a complaint in the superior court within the time specified by this section against the public body which has allegedly violated the provisions of this chapter; provided, however, that if the individual has first filed a complaint with the attorney general pursuant to this section, and the attorney general declines to take legal action, the individual may file suit in superior court within ninety (90) days of the attorney general’s closing of the complaint or within one hundred eighty (180) days of the alleged violation, whichever occurs later.

       (d) The court shall award reasonable attorney fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff, other than the attorney general, except where special circumstances would render such an award unjust. The court may issue injunctive relief and declare null and void any actions of a public body found to be in violation of this chapter. In addition, the court may impose a civil fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000) against a public body or any of its members found to have committed a willful or knowing violation of this chapter.

       (e) Nothing within this section shall prohibit the attorney general from initiating a complaint on behalf of the public interest.

       (f) Actions brought under this chapter may be advanced on the calendar upon motion of the petitioner.

       (g) The attorney general shall consider all complaints filed under this chapter to have also been filed under § 38-2-8(b) if applicable.

    On a somewhat different but related subject, while it is dangerous for a non-lawyer like myself to conclude what pretty clear english language sentences in a law actually mean legaly when parsed by a lawyer, it strikes me that the law says that, wih one exception, closed minutes can only stay closed past the next regular meeting following the meeting at which the vote was taken to close them.

    The exception is found in 42-46-4(b): “All votes taken in closed sessions shall be disclosed once the session is reopened; provided, however, a vote taken in a closed session need not be disclosed for the period of time during which its disclosure would jeopardize any strategy, negotiation or investigation undertaken
    pursuant to discussions conducted under § 42-46-5(a).”

    That exception makes all the sense in the world, for obvious reasons. But I am concerned that the minutes may not be disclosed immediately after “… the period of time after which its disclosure would jeopardize any strategy, negotiation… “.

    That may not be the case; I don’t take notes when watching School Committee or Council meetings, but my impression is that I see a lot more adjournments to go into executive sessions than I hear motions to open closed minutes from the past.

    It may be that those motions are in the texts of consent agendas, which we don’ t always hear read aloud. I hope that’s the case, because if that isn’t happening we really are violating the Open Meeting law.

    Comment by thurman silks — February 9, 2008 @ 10:16 pm | Reply

  9. It sure sounds like any challenger to the legitimacy of a closed meeting would have to jump through a lot hoops to get relief. On the other hand, it can work both ways. Honest politicians who wish to inform the public of the misuse of closed meetings would seem to be pretty immune from any real penalty.

    The other possibility is when committees change and new politicians are seated, perhaps they will take a look at minutes that were previously sealed and determine if the secrecy was reasonable and/or remains reasonable. The law does say that violations can be addressed 180 days from when the public becomes aware that the open meeting law has been broken. If it is determined the law was violated willfully, then the body and INDIVIDUALS can be fined $5000.

    I would love to have a few honest School Committee members elected who would look at previously sealed minutes to see if the politicians were purposely hiding information from the public?

    A recent example is Ms. Jennings’ charge in a closed meeting that Mr. Polouski inappropriately sharing information with the Support Staff union. Mr. Polouski subsequently resigned from the negotiation subcommittee. Without Mr. Felkner making the effort to bring the minutes into the public, we wouldn’t have known that there was in incident. We still don’t know what happened or if Ms. Jennings’ charge is accurate, but something happens and the public has the right to know.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 9, 2008 @ 10:41 pm | Reply

  10. “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” – Patrick Henry

    I’ll put my trust in the wisdom of Patrick Henry before the honesty of William Day, Andrew Polouski, and chums.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 9, 2008 @ 11:47 pm | Reply

  11. […] Filed under: transparency — Bill Felkner @ 1:12 pm There is a discussion going on in the comments section of another post about the Open Meeting Act.   Chariho has a history of hiding things in executive sessions. […]

    Pingback by Transparency is a four letter word at Chariho « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — February 10, 2008 @ 1:12 pm | Reply


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