Thursday, December 14, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth-Al Gore and the City Council

I was watching the Al Gore movie an Inconvenient Truth on Sunday night with my wife, when Al quoted Upton Sinclair "It is hard to make a man understand something, when his salary depends on him not understanding it."

My wife said to me, "that sounds like the City Council!" It was very lattice of coincidence.

The Open Meeting Law trial ended today and I guess Maureen Feeney was in the back of the room complaining that I hadn't blogged about the trial. First of all, I appreciate Maureen taking the time to read my blog. Second, although I'm not an attorney as anyone who was in court can attest, there are rules of decorum which I decided to try and follow, one of which is not making any public statements during the trial.

Councilor Kelly insisted on coming to Court today and being called as a witness. We had no intention of calling him, and the Council's attorney Mrs. Stacy didn't want to call him either but Jimmy, always the fighter and defender of the City Council insisted on coming. Jimmy came, spoke clearly and strongly to the court, despite his obvious physical ailments. It was an inspiration to see him work so hard to participate. I felt Jimmy would feel insulted if we didn't question him, and we asked him one relevant question which he answered honestly. His handshake was firm as he left the podium. Agree or disagree with Jimmy on an issue, he will let you know where he stands and there are fewer and fewer like him all the time.

I met with Jimmy years ago when I was a young developer starting out. I called his office about a project in his district and he gave me 1/2 an hour of his time early one morning. We had an honest, frank discussion about the property. He told me that he could support the project as long as we had some union involvement. Very straightforward, businesslike and friendly, nothing like he was portrayed in the press.

The City's lawyer asked me 5 times if I was going to just ask one question as we had agreed. Although I told her numerous times that when I give my word on something, it means something, it wasn't until Jimmy told her "I know Kevin, I trust Kevin" that she finally believed me. It was a poignant moment for me, and I thank Jimmy for saying that. Of course, I held up my end of the bargain.

Although I will blog more about this later, I know Mrs. Feeney would like to read more about herself so I will describe a bit of her testimony.

As has been reported in the Boston Phoenix and the Dorchester Reporter, Maureen Feeney is looking into being the next City Clerk which is a position appointed by the City Council. She testified that on Monday night, May 1st, 2006 she decided all by herself that the pay scales submitted by the Mayor for top City workers needed to be altered. The report was due to the council by Tuesday, May 2 at noon. So, on Tuesday morning as she was going to the Bayside Expo Center she called into her office and dictated the changes to the pay structure of the City to her assistants who changed the document that she had been sitting on for 58 days. Her assistants then sent it around to the members of her committee around 10 a.m. Those members then indicated that they "concurred" with her changes, and the whole thing was filed by noon.

She testified that she didn't know how many people were affected by the changes, nor how much it would cost the taxpayers of Boston.

Now, why do you suppose she decided not to hold a hearing on the matter, and wait till the absolute last minute to file the documents with the council, thus reducing the likelihood that anyone would really look at all the changes to the pay scales of city management workers?

Because she raised the MINIMUM salary of the City Clerk from the current level of $85,000
to $95,000. It is all about the money!!! I just figured this out in court on Wednesday morning after Feeney was off the stand, after going over and over the documents. Why would Feeney knowingly put herself in possible hotwater after just receiving a scathing indictment from Suffolk Superior Court? Because she could raise the salary of her possible next job by $10,000 a year, which has real pension implications as well.

Like the Watergate episode, the lesson is always to "follow the money!!!"

A quick note of appreciation for Councilor Ross who clearly was the councilor who answered the questions with the most honesty.

Also, I'd like to thank Michael Flaherty for coming up to me after the trial, offering a handshake and congratulating me on doing a good job. It was very genuine of him, and I think an appreciation that we are doing this because we firmly believe in open, transparent government. Best of holidays to him and his family as well.

More summary later.


Anonymous said...

"It shall be the duty of the committee members to communicate their agreement, disagreement, abstention, or amendment to the chair prior to the report’s submission to the clerk" appears to be too confusing. May I suggest 1) Concur with agreement, 2) Concur with disagreement, 3) Concur with abstention, or 4) Concur with amendment as being much more clearer and easier to understand. When the various city councilors claim that they concur with disagreement in order to vote on something and then vote against the very thing they concurred with (simply as a courtesy), that means that everytime they do this, they are violating their own rules. The US Senate makes a clear distinction between a vote to send a bill to the full Senate and the sponsorship of a bill. They do not appear to have this level of total confusion. Perhaps the next council should learn from the US Senate and not so totally muddy the waters. By the way, the answer to the big question was ZERO (i.e. the number of times the word Courtesy appears in the Rules).

Anonymous said...

Ask Boston City Council staff about their attempts to emotionally extort citizens from bringing to light their concerns about Council staff violating Sunshine open public meetings principles, their flouting FOI Freedom of Information public records principles, their two faced practices with respect to open government principles.

Routinely council public information is delayed or denied to citizens questioning the Council's bad communications practices. The City Clerk and Assistant City Clerk and Clerk office staff use intimidating practices with citizens to deflect inquiries for Council public information maintained by the office of the Clerk.

For example, at public meetings the stenographic machine operator failed to disclose the unedited stenographic machine output of the Councilors' debate.