Tonight is a special meeting of the Greenfield School Committee. Aside from public comment, the only items on the agenda are a vote to enter Executive Session, “Public vote on Executive Session item,” and then the Open Meeting Law complaint filed against the Mayor earlier this month.
I don’t actually know what the item for Executive Session is. Is it related to the Open Meeting Law complaint filed by Committee Chair Amy Proietti again Mayor Wedengartner two weeks ago? I don’t know! We’ll find out!
In the meantime, the complaint itself can be found on the School Committee’s website.
Massachusetts Open Meeting Law can get kind of complicated, but the general gist is that members of a public body like a City Council or School Committee or any of the other subcommittees, commissions, and boards must do all of their discussion and deliberation on the record, at public meetings that are posted in advance.
There are two parts to this current complaint. The first is that prior to any votes on the FY24 School Department budget, the Mayor (who is a member of the School Committee) sent an email to the rest of the School Committee in which she expressed her opinion on the budget.
The second part of the complaint is that the Mayor later sent another email to the full School Committee, sharing a legal opinion she had sought out regarding the committee’s deliberations.
In neither case (according to the complaint) did the Mayor seek to make the opinions she was sharing with the other voting members of the committee public.
In another context (i.e., one not involving a public body subject to Open Meeting Law), you’d expect people to be sharing opinions and expressing their views in emails they send to other members of the group. In this case, however, since all of that happens outside the view of the public, it does make sense that we don’t want municipal business being conducted that way as a matter of practice. It’s the 21st century equivalent of smoke-filled back rooms.
I’m not sure how this evening’s discussion will go. In general, it seems to be of a piece with the general tone of politics around town these last few months, which have seen an increased level of combativeness between the Mayor and nearly every other part of the city government.