Chariho School Parents’ Forum

February 10, 2008

Transparency at Chariho

Filed under: transparency — Editor @ 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. (remember Hirst vs Chariho where the AG’s office ruled Chariho had violated OMA).  It might be a good time to review a previous post with more information – such as a court case that spells out the extent executive session votes should be announced:

PR 06-16 Parks v. Cumberland School Committee

 and it suffices that the Personnel Sub-Committee’s agenda violated the OMA by failing to provide an adequate statement specifying the nature of the business to be discussed. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-6(b). 

880 A.2d 784; Tanner v. The Town Council of East Greenwich 

we hold that the requirement that a public body provide supplemental notice, including a “statement specifying the nature of the business to be discussed,” obligates that public body to provide fair notice to the public under the circumstances, or such notice based on the totality of the circumstances as would fairly inform the public of the nature of the business to be discussed or acted upon. Although we recognize that this standard is somewhat flexible and we decline to provide specific guidelines or “magic words,” such an approach accounts for the range and assortment of meetings, votes, and actions covered under the OMA, and the realities of local government, while also safeguarding the public’s interest in knowing and observing the workings of its governmental bodies.(fn15) 

 I also believe Chariho has a history of putting things into executive session when they don’t belong there such as when Superintendent Ricci called an executive session because he thought my letter in the Sun “challenged his integrity.”  (by the way, did you know that Ricci consulted with the school’s solicitor before this meeting – does the solicitor work for the Committee or for Ricci?)  The OMA says:

§ 42-46-4  Closed meetings. (a)….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.

And § 42-46-5 (a) says:

SECTION 42-46-5   § 42-46-5  … (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.

Of course, Mr. Ricci said I “challenged his integrity” so he was using reason #1 for the session.  However, page 23 of the AG’s Guide to Open Government in RI 5th Edition says, “However, such affected person(s) have no right to request that the discussion be held in closed session.”

 

And we must remember exactly what the agenda said:

“Given Bill Felkner’s concerns about my character and integrity [as detailed in his letter to the Westerly Sun], this item is on the agenda at my [Superintendent Ricci] request.  It will provide Bill and other members of the Committee an opportunity to comment in an appropriate forum.” 

So there is no doubt who called this meeting and this is evidence of another OMA violation.

 

Giancarlo Giccetti read this rule to the school board during the meeting – but they ignored him and held the closed session anyway.  Bill Day, Andy Polouski, Andy McQuade, Terry Serra and others have no problem ignoring the law so that they can hide information from you.

 

So check out the old post here and brush up on the law.  And you might want to pay attention at this Tuesday’s meeting – a similar situation might occur (aired on Ch 18 @ 8:00PM on Wednesday and 12 noon on Friday).

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6 Comments »

  1. I was present at this school committee meeting. Mr. Chicchetti not only read the rule in public and in full, but discussed it’s illegality – because members of the board had already stood to move to the executive session. The board not only ignored this but purposely voted to continue in closed session without even asking for time to consider or requesting a solicitor’s opinion before proceeding. Mr. Chicchetti and Mr. Felkner voted against the closed session – they obviously lost.

    Comment by BarbaraC — February 10, 2008 @ 5:24 pm | Reply

  2. Our School Committee is so vain and so stupid that even when specifically read the violation they are about to commit, they still go ahead and break the law. I wonder if they get away with this because they know the law has no teeth or if they just don’t care? The AG office needs to fine a few of these politicians as individuals. If Mr. Day pays $5000 for willfully breaking the Open Meetting law, maybe he’ll think twice before trying to hide things from the public in the future?

    Mr. Felkner has shown that he will share information with the public even when the entire School Committee wants to hide. Maybe Mr. Cicchetti will demonstrate similar honesty? I encourage all politicians who are aware of Open Meetings violation to step forward and share with the public. If those breaking the law and discussing issues in secret which should be discussed in public have no fear for their crimes, then why should the honest politician worry about disclosing the illegalities?

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 10, 2008 @ 6:07 pm | Reply

  3. ProJo had an article on North Kingstown charging $15 per hour for gathering accounting records. They report that Chariho charges $15 per hour which in the maximum under the Open Records Law. North Kingstown is claiming it will take 9.5 hour for one particular request.

    Why can’t public agencies maintain their books so they are accessible on the computer? If you want to access records you can simply log on to a website where access is allowed?

    According to the Open Records Law a person is not required to identify themselves or the reason for the public record request, so it seems pretty clear that access to public records should have no impediments. The easiest thing for everyone is transparency through the use of computers.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 10, 2008 @ 10:52 pm | Reply

  4. CR, I’m afraid there will never be any teeth in the law as long as our legislature is controled by union hacks. I heard today on the radio one representative who is also the head of the Providence Teachers Association. This, to me, sounds very wrong. He is just one example of one of the many things that are wrong with the government in this state.

    Comment by CharihoParent — February 12, 2008 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

  5. There was discussion here on the family/personal connections between School Committee members and Chariho employees. Mr. Day has a wife and a son at the Chariho feeding trough. Mr. Petit’s cousin is the finance guy at Chariho. Mr. Polouski is a retired Chariho teacher.

    Mrs. Kenney from Hopkinton’s Town Council was or is a teacher. From what I can tell, she’s never objected to any amount of spending at Chariho, nor has she ever requested greater transparency. Her husband ran the Chariho Building Committee.

    I’m not sure how you protect yourself from all these self-serving connections? Do you think the majority of voters in Richmond know that Mr. Day derives substantial household income from Chariho?

    Transparency is the answer. With the communication technology available today information can be shared quickly and effectively. When the public is able to monitor government spending politicians will be forced to govern honestly with the knowledge they will be called to account should they spend our money foolishly. We shouldn’t have to guess what is spent where at Chariho or in any of our towns. We should have this information almost instantaneously at the click of a button.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 13, 2008 @ 12:36 am | Reply

  6. […] the deal.  The reported vote was on a different issue – but if the Committee reported votes as the law dictates, this would not have […]

    Pingback by Just in case you missed the reports « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — February 17, 2008 @ 1:14 pm | Reply


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