Page 4 THE MALDEN ADVOCATE - Friday, February 1, 2019 ~ Op-Ed ~ Civic engagement and government transparency To the People of Malden, I would like to address the value of civic engagement and the need for transparency at every level and branch of government: federal, state, municipal, and charter; as well as executive, legislative, and judicial. Civic engagement and government transparency are necessary in order to make sure that we, the People, have the information and knowledge to participate in and provide oversight of our government. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the public’s right to access government records is codifi ed in Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 66, Section 10, commonly referred to as the Public Records Law: “Every person having custody of any public record... shall, at reasonable times and without unreasonable delay, permit it, or any segregable portion of a record which is an independent public record, to be inspected and examined by any person.” Furthermore, the requirement that public bodies hold open meetings (unless exempt because of privilege) is set in MGL Chapter 30A, Section 20, commonly referred to as the Open Meeting Law: “all meetings of a public body shall be open to the public.” In my opinion, the importance of these two laws cannot be overstated. In Massachusetts, they are the fi rst line of defense in keeping our government accountable to the People. For, try as we might, we will not always be able to prevent our government from doing something we disagree with; however, it is the right of the People to know what was actually done, when it was done, and by whom. The Public Records and Open Meeting Laws were designed to ensure this accountability and transparency. Unfortunately, our government does not always live up to the letter of the law, or our expectations. Whether it be ignorance, apathy, or malice is up for debate in the public forum and, if matters are so egregious, in the halls of justice. The ability of the public to have an open debate on the actions of government (and government offi cials) is the reason why the Public Records and Open Meeting Laws of the Commonwealth Eastern Bank Bldg. on RT-1 605 Broadway, #301 Saugus, MA 01906 (781) 233-6844 www.bostonnorthdental.com Dr. Priti Amlani · Restorative Dentistry · Cosmetic Dentistry · Implant Restorations · Zoom Whitening · Teeth in a Day - All on 6 Full Mouth Rehabilitation Before After Dr. Bruce Goldman Dr. Bhavisha Patel · Invisalign · CEREC Crowns (Single visit crowns) · Root Canal Treatment · Sedation Dentistry are so fundamental to good governance. For it is true that secrecy in government breeds bad behavior and systemic corruption that spreads like an infection. In the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most effi cient policeman.” It is with these sage words in mind that I was extremely disappointed to hear that the Massachusetts Legislature recently failed to expand the Public Records Law and instead “left in place the exemption for the Legislature, the Judiciary and governor’s offi ce from the records law that applies to most municipal and state agencies.” (Katie Lannan, Legislative commission fails to deliver report on Mass. public records , Boston Business Journal, Jan. 10, 2019) According to an article in the Boston Globe, “Massachusetts ranked 49th out of the 50 states in the time it took agencies to answer public records requests fi led through Muckrock, a Boston-based news startup that helps people obtain government documents.” (Todd Wallack, Mass. agencies often limit access to records , Boston Globe, July 18, 2015) Although the Legislature is failing to enact common sense government transparency reforms, we can still take bold action locally to ensure that we get our own house in order. As you may have heard, I recently moved forward with a formal Open Meeting Law complaint related to the Malden City Council’s alleged long-standing habit of violating the Open Meeting Law when it comes to executive session (closed door) meetings. It is important to note that I am not the fi rst person to identify this defi ciency in adhering to requirements of the Open Meeting Law. Prior to my arrival to the City Council, former Councillors Neil Kinnon and David D’Arcangelo co-sponsored City Council Paper File # 576-15, which was passed unanimously by the City Council on November 11, 2015: “Order: That Executive Session minutes be reviewed for release Ordered: That the City Clerk and City Solicitor review executive session minutes to determine which can be made public.” While I may not have been the fi rst to take issue with the way the City Council was handling executive session meeting records, I am determined to be the last. That is why I regularly raised these concerns to my colleagues since joining the Council in 2016. In fact, I sponsored the City Council Paper File # 395-17 on September 5, 2017 which City Council chose not to act upon and instead placed on fi le: “Order: That the City Clerk provide an update on the evaluation of the privilege of past Executive Session meeting minutes.” Since then I have regularly brought up my concerns to the City Council during our executive session meetings making sure to consistently ask for the meeting minutes from the previous executive session meeting so that we could review and approve them in a timely manner, as is required by law. Year after year, meeting after meeting, nothing had been done to rectify the situation. Stymied by years of inaction on this issue, I was advised by the Attorney General’s Office that I could fi le a formal comLAWS | SEE PAGE 12

5 Publizr Home

You need flash player to view this online publication