Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Last nights meeting

Nancy Lo and James Travers at the School Committee Nominating Panel meeting

I appreciate people being interested in this, sorry I don't have more time to write now.

Last night in room 608, 7 of the 13 members of the committee showed up (amazingly, just enough for a quorom!) for this allegedly important meeting to decide which names to pass along to the Mayor for a 4 year term.

In the audience was an attorney for the City Law Dept., Mary Pierce from the Mayor's office, Sam Tyler from the Municipal Research Bureau, a woman who seemed to be an assistant to Mary Pierce, president of ABN Shirley Kressel and myself. (Interestingly, there were no African-Americans in the room, but then why would they care about the Boston Public Schools?)

I asked Nancy Lo, who is identified on the City Website as the contact person for the meeting, before, during and after the meeting if the 6 people that they discussed were the same people that they had already decided on at the Dec. 10, 2009 meeting and which the Globe had written about. She and the other 7 members of the committee present refused to answer the simple question, "are these the six people you already decided on at the Dec. 10 meeting"?

The meeting was a farce. Nancy Lo started up by explaining how they had narrowed the field from 27 to 11 people, they had held interviews with 11 people and had narrowed the list down to 6. She then "opened the floor" to nominations and the 7 members present pretended to have a discussion as they nominated the 6 people present. I had two favorite parts, one was when they were discussing a Cape Verdean gentleman, a Mr. Barros. Three times the phrase "he is so articulate" was used, right out of the textbook of 'how to say nice things about minorities.' When they were discussing the white candidates, no one said any of them were "articulate". I sure hope they are!

The second funny part was when James Travers spoke about how impressed he was with the open and thorough process that the committee went through to arrive at the nominations. Last year Mr. Travers was appointed to the board by the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. This year he was appointed by the Chamber of Commerce. Amazing how two separate business groups pick the same guy to be on the committee. Also amazing that Mr. Travers gave $500 to Menino's campaign last year.

They then held public comment and Mr. Tyler, Mrs. Kressel and I took our turns. I asked the committee to answer whether the same 6 people they had just nominated were the same ones they had nominated on Dec. 10, 2009. A deafening wall of silence ensued, while people on the committee instantly found how interesting their navels were. Nancy Lo broke the silence by saying this was comment period not question period, and in a back and forth it was determined that no questions would be allowed.

After the meeting I asked the committee members again if any of them would tell me if this was the same group of 6 and again none of them would answer.

Such an impressive group of people who inspire my trust in government so much that they can't even answer a simple question about what they have done.


But, don't forget that the Boston Globe endorsed Menino and so endorsed this type of behavior. It is not new or unknown to them. I called the editorial board, emailed them to ask how they got and endorsed two people (who were on the list of the final 6) before the committee had even met and the Globe wouldn't answer any questions either.

Case law has determined that holding a rubber stamp public meeting after an illegal meeting doesn't correct the violation if no true discussion ensued. Clearly no real discussion ensued.

Will the District Attorney do anything about it? We shall see. I did video tape the whole meeting in case anyone wants to waste an hour and a half of their life.

A Merry Christmas to all!


Jed H said...

I am a bit ashamed we didn't have Floonies come out and support you. We need to be in better contact. I've launched a group temporarily called "Move Boston Forward" (ha ha) that brings together Floonies and anyone else who wants to keep fighting for change. It will be an organization that builds a base for modern city gov't, not just anti-Menino.

The organization will not be tied to any particular candidate. However, out of respect, I did run it by Michael and Sam. Sam has pledged to help any way he can. Anyway, that process took a long time.

We have not had a meeting yet. I was thinking to wait until after the holidays to hold one, but your saga with the School Committee says to me to get this rolling ASAP.

We do have more than 150 fans on FaceBook...

Jed H said...

The Boston Black Men's Leadership Group did organize their members and others to turn out in force at the 12/16 School Committee meeting.

Michael Pahre said...

Hi Kevin,

I actually think you're barking up the wrong tree here with the nominating committee and the Open Meeting Law.

I've personally been involved in an OML case with the DA's office (on the Harvard Allston and BC Task Forces), so I am quite familiar with the OML and the relevant case law.

The obvious application of case law to the school committee nominating committee would be Connolly v. Hanover, where the court ruled that a selection committee, in place to provide a name for the mayor for superintendent of schools, was not subject to the OML. They were not subject because they were advisory to an individual elected official (the mayor) who had sole statutory authority to name the superintendent. Elected officials, by themselves, are not subject to the OML.

The nominating committee is advising the mayor only (as far as I can tell), the mayor has the sole statutory authority to name new school committee members, and the mayor is not himself subject to the OML. So Connolly would apply to this nominating committee and tell you that it is not subject to the OML.

Hence my conclusion: they can meet in secret, draw up their conclusions not just in meetings but also via telecons or email, can select a chair in any manner, and don't have to make minutes public (or even take them).

Give me a ring if you disagree, I'd be interested to discuss further.

-Mike Pahre

Michael Pahre said...

Actually, I just looked up Connolly v. School Committee of Hanover, and I had remembered a detail incorrectly: it was the superintendent of schools who convened the advisory committee in that case, not the mayor. The superintendent had the sole statutory authority to make the personnel appointment -- and the superintendent, like mayors, is not by himself subject to the OML -- hence why the court ruled that the OML did not apply to his nominating/selection committee.