An off-the-cuff rambling by former School Committee member Geoff Epstein on Village 14, may have exposed a violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law, Emily Costello of the Newton TAB reports.
Costello took it from there, speaking to Jefferey Pile, a media law attorney who works with the New England Press Association.
Pile said the Open Meeting Law was “probably” broken because it gave elected officials the opportunity to ask questions in private. In particular, the violation may have occurred because of private meetings Newton Mayor Warren had with aldermen and not necessarily the School Committee. He also cited a recent case which found that Boston City councilors had violated Open Meeting Law by deliberating in private non-quorum sessions.
Pyle said Newton officials were asking the public to believe that no deliberations took place without the means of verifying that was in fact the case.
He also questioned the decision not to post the meetings, saying it denied members of the public its right to protest their exclusion.
“Why couldn’t these briefings have been held in public?” Pyle asked.
While none of this might have come to light if Epstein hadn’t made his off-hand remark — and if Costello hasn’t taken the lead and run with it — my understanding is that the practice of mayors holding non-quorum meetings with aldermen dates back at least to the Cohen Administration.