I am shocked, it still hasn't sunk in. Occasionally one goes to court and justice is served. Today, October 19, 2006 justice was served: On December 8, the Boston City Council will stand trial for violating the Open Meeting Law in their machinations to approve pay raises for the Mayor, themselves and other City personnel.
The judge in Superior Court today recognized the importance of the Open Meeting Law, saying that it was an essential element in a democracy and that the citizens are entitled to a speedy trial. Despite the protestations of the Counsel, to the Counsel, to the Council the judge ruled that there was no reason or room for them to be allowed to file a motion for summary judgement.
This is hopefully a huge victory for the Citizens of the Commonwealth. It upholds our position that because the rules in the Open Meeting Law are so different from regular law in that the Defendants must prove their innocence (not innocent until proven guilty as is normally the case) and because of the nature of the violation the plaintiffs do not have access to the information they need to prosecute a case, that defendants are not entitled to a motion for summary judgement. In short, the court has ruled that if there is even a valid suspicion that a government body violated the Open Meeting Law they must stand trial to prove their innocence.
This puts real teeth in the Open Meeting Law and will hopefully pursuade government bodies in the Commonwealth to open up their doors and let the public and the press in to see the "sausage making" that is lawmaking.
Although I am not a lawyer, I believe that the council's only options at this point are to plead guilty or to stand trial. We have also included Mayor Menino on the list of our witnesses, as well as Larry Dicara the head of the compensation committee, the City Clerk and some other material witnesses. Counsel for the Council has indicated they will fight vigorously to keep the Mayor from having to testify. Everyone else is fair game.
A huge tip of the cap to Kathlene Devine & Shirley Kressel for their yeoman's work on this case.