State House reporter Dan Ring has a story today in The Republican reporting that Attorney General Martha Coakley will open an investigation into whether the trustees of the University of Massachusetts violated the state open meeting law when they met in closed session to interview finalists for the job of university president.
Dan interviewed me for this story and, as he reports, my opinion is that the violation is clear. When a government body is filling a job opening, the law allows closed-door meetings only at the preliminary stages of the process. Once the final pool of candidates is identified, the rest of the process should take place in the open.
That only makes sense. The public has a right to know about the candidates for a public job. That is especially the case for a public job as important as president of the state university.
To me, this story is yet another illustration of why the state's open meeting law needs more teeth and fewer exceptions. Here, the UMass trustees ignored both the letter and the spirit of the law. To justify their closed-door meetings, they relied on two exceptions in the law that clearly did not pertain to this situation.
It remains to be seen what the AG's office will conclude. To me, the violation seems indisputable.