Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rep. Cabral Op-ed on Open Meeting Law

I urge you to read Fix weak Open Meeting Law enforcement, an op-ed on by state Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford. As he points out, the new open meeting law has many strengths, but also a major weakness -- the lack of an effective enforcement mechanism.

Rep. Cabral's opinion is underscored by the fact that he was the primary architect over a number of years of efforts to reform the law. As House chair of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight in prior sessions of the legislature, he pushed to give the law more teeth.

Here is part of what he says in the op-ed:
I proposed giving courts the ability to impose larger fines and to impose fines on board members individually. Fines picked up by taxpayers do little to change public officials' behavior. Similarly, I wanted to strengthen private enforcement by allowing courts to force public bodies that violate the law to cover the attorney's fees of those who successfully challenge them.

The new law not only fails to include these improvements, but made it significantly harder for prosecutors to fine rule breakers. For the first time, prosecutors now need to prove not only that a board violated the law, but that the violation was "intentional," a much higher standard and very difficult to prove when speaking about a group of people rather than a single individual.
Read the full piece at SouthCoastToday.

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