Friday, December 29, 2006

Meeting closed to discuss open meetings

This is priceless: As the Worcester Telegram reports, when selectmen in Lunenburg, Mass., met to discuss a complaint alleging that several of them had violated the state Open Meeting Law, they did so in closed session. After meeting in executive session for 1.5 hours, they announced they had "come to no conclusion."

In fairness, the Open Meeting Law does permit closed meetings to discuss litigation strategy, but only when an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the board's litigating position. A lawsuit is pending in this matter, filed by one Lunenburg selectman against three others. But boards tend to use the litigation exception broadly to close their doors whenever lawyers are involved. Given that the complainant here could have attended the meeting (but chose not to), and given that the reason for maintaining secrecy about one's litigation strategy is to keep it from your opponent, what possible justification did the selectmen have for closing this meeting? The only answer, of course, is to keep it out of the eyes of the public.

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