We have been to court a few times over the last month and City Corporate Council Mark Sweeney has done his most important primary first job of making sure the city councilors and the Mayor have not had to testify under oath to questions posed by nasty truth seekers such as
Kathleen Devine, Shirley Kressel and myself, before the election. Amazing how they have been able to delay this suit which statute says should be heard in 10 days for over 6 months now!
Before we received the decision from the judge on the city's motion to dismiss the case, we offered to the city council (and I offered to Flaherty personally) to settle the case. We gave them the chance to revisit their Dec. 15, 2004 vote that gave the BRA unfettered power, and asked to work out some guidelines that would allow all the members and the public access to the deliberative process. There was no response to our offer.
I want to be clear about this. We gave Flaherty and company a chance to gain some sort of leverage or power over the BRA and they refused. So, if you ever hear Flaherty, Murphy, Tobin, Feeney, Scappiccio, Consalvo, Ross, McDermott, or Kelly complain that the BRA isn't responding to them, or isn't being honest or forthcoming it is their own fault. They had not one, but two chances to make the BRA accountable to them, and through them, to the public but they didn't take that opportunity. They rubber stamped what the BRA (and in the shadows the mayor) wanted after negotiating behind closed doors for two years.
The judge's decision came back and we lost on our request to revisit the BRA vote because of a 21 day timeliness issue. (In other words, we may have been right but we didn't file the lawsuit in time). On all other counts we prevailed and the suit is to go forward.
There was some testiness in court. Mark Sweeney asked the judge to protect him from my disparaging remarks, but the judge indicated I had not crossed the rules of decorum. Yet! Shirley asked Sweeney when we could sit down and work out a pre-trial memorandum and Sweeney said they weren't doing anything without a court order. Sweeney told me he thought this lawsuit was nothing more than a political stunt by a disgruntled loser of a city council candidate. But, the fireworks have died down this week and we are back to cordial business I think.
The City Council met in closed session last week to discuss this suit. Supposedly some thought they should try and settle, but others didn't. Sweeney has indicated to us that they are likely to file a motion for summary judgement but that it will take sometime. In the meantime, we are working on a joint pre-trial memorandum for November 14th, with a current assigned trial date of December 5th. Attorney Sweeney has told me that he doesn't ever see this getting to trial. Our settlement offer is off the table. We have on our witness list the 13 city councilors, the mayor, and BRA chief maloney and some staff who helped run or set up the closed meetings.
The case is pretty much boiled down to the following. The city council is arguing that even though they may invite all the councilors to a closed meeting, as long as less than 7 of them are in a room at one time, it doesn't matter. Further, that unless there is pending legislation, they can sit down and talk about whatever they want, with whomever they want, behind closed doors. They could then put some legislation on the docket on a Tuesday and vote on it on Wednesday and they will have met the letter of the law.
We disagree. (as do councilors Turner, Arroyo, Hennigan and Yancey). We believe that if everyone is invited to a meeting (or as they like to call them an "informational session"), than the public should be invited to the meeting as well.
Stay tuned. I fully anticipate that counsel and the council will do everything possible to keep the elected officials having to answer any questions under oath. The last thing those guys want to do is tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.