In so ruling, the SJC sides with the position taken by the district attorney and by the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association in an amicus brief which I co-authored together with Peter J. Caruso.
The ruling is significant for three reasons:
- It affirms that discussions of a government employee's "professional competence" must be conducted in public.
- It affirms that an exchange of e-mails among the members of a public body can constitute "deliberation" and therefore violate the open meeting law.
- It clarifies a seeming conflict between the open meeting law and the public records law. While the discussion of an employee's performance evaluation must take place in an open meeting, once the evaluation is reduced to a written evaluation document, that document need not be made public.
This is an important ruling for affirming the right of the public to know how their local officials are performing in their jobs. The public has a right to know when a local official is performing well or performing poorly.