For the second time in a month, the Wayland Finance Committee has violated the state’s Open Meeting Law, according to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.
The committee broke the law when it failed to list an executive session agenda item with proper specificity on its Sept. 5, 2012 meeting notice, according to a letter Sept. 24, 2013 letter from the AG’s office. Specifically, the committee failed to specify the public employee unions for which it would be discussing collective bargaining strategy.
The letter was issued in response to a complaint from Wayland resident George Harris.
The violation was part of a drawn out chain of events. On Sept. 5, the committee convened in open session and approved going into executive session to discuss “Executive Session- approve executive session minutes of July 9, 2012 and discuss negotiation strategy,” but without naming any unions involved in that meeting. Then-Finance Committee Chairman William Steinberg, according to the meeting’s minutes, said the group would reconvene in open session to adjourn the meeting, but the video recording of the meeting does not specify whether that would occur, according to the AG’s letter.
During the meeting, the committee did not discuss certain public worker contracts but instead reviewed its overall “broader long-term” strategy for negotiating with unions in the future, according to the AG’s letter. They also discussed, “the approach to negotiations, the metrics desired for comparison and identifying the next steps for improving healthcare savings" and discussed inflation rates to discern how the present contracts compared to inflation growth,” according to the letter.
After the complaint was filed, Steinberg, during an Oct. 3, 2012 meeting, said the previous executive session motion was insufficient and the committee approved amending the minutes for that gathering. During the Nov. 26, 2012 meeting, the committee approved adding a footnote to the revised minutes to say the executive session discussed contracts that were set to expire on June 30, 2013, but they did not specify exactly which contracts they were referring to. The footnote also said the committee should have said whether the group would return from executive session to adjourn the meeting.
Despite the committee’s remedial actions, the AG’s office said the response was not sufficient. The footnote added the Finance Committee should have included the names of the collective bargaining units, according to the AG’s letter. Also, the revision of the minutes in regards to convening in open session did not meet the intent of the Open Meeting Law, according to AG’s office. The intent is partly to inform citizens, prior to the meeting, of exactly what topics will be discussed.
In conclusion, the AG’s office ordered the committee to follow the Open Meeting Law in the future and it would consider future violations intentional.