Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 12, 2008

Transparency in contract negotiations (cont.)

Filed under: contract negotiations,executive sessions,transparency — Editor @ 10:25 pm

I was emailed recently asking about my motion to release the ESP contract before it was ratified.  The motion was made at the November 27th meeting in exec session (you will also notice more discussion of this blog which was somehow listed as “litigation” – but I digress). 

Some of the minor chit chat centered on why it would be ok to release the information.  The majority of the Committee didn’t want to release it because, essentially, they promised the union that they wouldn’t.  But they also acknowledged that the NEA had broken that agreement.  Plus, everyone now knows that there is no law requiring closed meetings for negotiations.  It is an agreement made between the Union and the Committee.  So you have to ask yourself, why would they make that agreement and why would they honor it when they acknowledged that the union had already broken it.  

I have admitted that when we started I thought it was law, but as soon as I learned it was not, I would not support it (we voted for it at each meeting – it could have been changed at any time).  So why would they still want to hide it even after they learned its not necessary?

Governor Caricieri made a similar proposal recently and placed it as an Article in the budget. 

“The debate yesterday largely centered on Carcieri’s push to shed light on the collective bargaining process, which is generally conducted behind closed doors between union representatives and municipal or school department leaders.”

“This budget article will improve transparency of budget decisions in local cities and towns, while giving people a voice in the decision-making process by requiring a public hearing,” the governor’s spokesman, Jeff Neal, said. “If approved, it would enable the citizens of local communities to express their support for, concerns about or opposition to collective bargaining contracts being agreed to by municipalities.”

Of course, the unions have the expected response:

“I’m halfway decent at reading tea leaves and I’m pretty clear that this budget article is about putting pressure on public officials not to give decent, in my view, pay raises and benefits to public sector workers,” said James Parisi, a lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. “It’s built on a couple false assumptions — that the employer doesn’t know what they’re doing and they’re getting hoodwinked by unions…. Public perception and the chatter out there aside, it’s just not true and you need to know it’s not true.”

Did I mention that the last teacher’s union contract at Chariho had average step raises of 10.3% and the latest support personnel contract step raises average 9.5%?   Do you get double digit raises just for making it from one year to the next (besides, we all know how you can’t hardly fire an incompetent public employee)?

But maybe the unions are right.  Maybe the school committees do know what they are doing.  Maybe they intended on treating the public sector employees with double digit raises and gold-plated benefits. 

This is a very simple issue – transparency.  We are spending your money.  You should have a say in the process.  Ask your Chariho representative why they voted to keep the information from you.  Don’t buy the “we made a promise” line – ask them why they made the promise in the first place and then ask them to promise to represent you next time.

School Committee votes to make a statement

Filed under: Corruption,executive sessions,transparency — Editor @ 10:41 am

The following statement (file linked below) was read into  the record by Bob Petit last night and the majority of the Committee voted to accept.   There was a discussion for a while.  Normally, the Committee gets to speak and then the public.  But Holly Eaves made a (now famous – or infamous) “move to motion question” which killed discussion – blocking out Barbara Capalbo from speaking.   Which is a shame considering they accused me of not working for the kids – I said I was working for my constituents and their children.  It might have been helpful for the Hopkinton councilor to speak considering she too represents them, but for some reason Holly didn’t think it was necessary.  And, of course, the majority of the Committee agreed.

sc-accuses-felkner-of-violation.jpg

September 21, 2007

“Sealed” versus “Closed”

Filed under: executive sessions,Sept 11 meeting — Editor @ 11:42 pm

The Chariho Times ran a very nice article and editorial.  Unfortunately, they reported that Mr. Ricci accused me of violating the Open Meeting Act.  He has done this when I disclosed the agenda for the March 27 executive session and he has done this by saying the minutes are “sealed.”   And it was also said here.

I have spoken with the AG’s Office and the OMA does not address the issue of internal agenda items.  There is no violation

And, I have already said that the meeting involved a few board members trying to stop me from writing in the paper.  I don’t care if the minutes were sealed or not – you can’t protect that information because it is not protected under OMA. 

That being said, the minutes are not “sealed.”  Below are the minutes that clearly show we “closed” the minutes.  That means they have been public information for nearly 5 months.

Don’t believe everything people tell you – no matter how many times they say it.  Ask yourself this – why would the the board and the Superintendent make false statements like this?  I don’t blame the press – they trust the Superintendent to tell them the truth.

September 17, 2007

Things that make you go “hmmm”

Filed under: 5th & 6th grade,executive sessions — Editor @ 8:27 am

On Thursday, September 13, the Westerly Sun ran an article titled, “Does Chariho board member’s Web site spill closed-door beans?

This article discussed the March 26th executive session meeting, placed on the agend by Superintendent Barry Ricci.  He scheduled this meeting because he felt I had challenged his integrity with a letter in the Sun – a response piece to his letter that said the research on grade configuration was inconclusive.

In this WS article last Thursday, the reporter said –

According to March 27 regular session minutes, the executive session was held about 6 p.m., prior to other agenda items. All 11 committee members voted to enter executive session and keep the exec­utive minutes closed in accordance with state law.

 I have not bothered to check the minutes – but I was there as were some of you.  When the meeting was called, Giancarlo Cicchetti read from the Open Meetings rule book and explained how the meeting was a violation.  Deb Jenning, never the less, made a motion to go into exec session and the majority of the board voted for it.  Mr. Cicchetti and I did not.

I left a message at the Sun for Mr. Ryan on Thursday and the corrections desk soon after.  To my knowledge, no correction has been published.

Perhaps the minutes reflect something different than what actually happened, I don’t know.  I do know that I have told anyone that asked what the vote was.  

I’ll dig up the minutes of both meetings and post soon.

[UPDATE] I forgot to explain what the alleged violation was.  The following note was included in an email to the press on March 26, 2007.  The quote came from the March 27 meeting agenda. 

Scheduled for Executive Session is “Character of Superintendent.”  Quote: “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.”

 

************

According to the Chariho board, sharing this information was a violation of the Open Meetings law.

 

[UPDATE] Duh! (i teach my kids not do say that, but I can say it to myself here).  It just dawned on me.  The exec session mentioned in the article was at 6:00.  I think the one in question may have come later – I really need to dig up those minutes – maybe tonight during the game.  If there were two XS that night, that would explain the confusion – although that meeting (if different) didn’t have anything to do with the context of the article – Stay tuned…

 

[UPDATE the UPDATE]  I had a good conversation with the V.P., Editor of the Sun (Raymond Lamont) and we seem to come to the same possible conclusion – the XS mentioned in the article was the early session, the session related to the story came later – this is supported with Councilperson Capalbo’s comment.  I have a call into the AG’s office and will verify my understanding of the Open Meeting laws – specifically on when I can release the minutes.