Friday, February 19, 2010
By Bruce Mohl
No one, it appears, is policing public officials to make sure they comply with the state’s Open Meeting Law.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, in a presentation to Beacon Hill budget officials earlier this week, said the Legislature transferred enforcement of the state’s Open Meeting Law from the 11 district attorneys to her office. But lawmakers provided no additional funding to do the work.
I’m not surprised. Transparency is not a hallmark of Massachusetts government, whether it’s holding open meetings or releasing public records.
The biggest push for open meeting compliance in recent memory came not from a government watchdog but from three activists – Shirley Kressel of the Back Bay, former Boston mayoral candidate Kevin McCrea, and Kathleen Devine. The trio successfully sued the Boston City Council for meeting in small private groups to set policy. They prevailed in Suffolk Superior Court in 2006 and against before the state Appeals Court in 2008.
Coakley is seeking $195,000 from the Legislature to pay for training materials and to hire a director, an assistant attorney general, and a part-time paralegal.
Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth Magazine.