Published in the April 27, 2018 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD – The School Committee once again finds itself in the crosshairs of an Open Meeting Law complaint. And the resident filing the complaint, Daniel Lieber of 1 Elm St., is no stranger to the process, having filed several Open Meeting Law complaints against the School Committee in the past.
The latest complaint was filed on April 13 with the office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, which investigates Open Meeting Law complaints. The School Committee voted at its April 17 meeting to refer the complaint to Town Counsel Thomas Mullen.
In his written complaint, Lieber alleges that, “The Wakefield School Committee and the Superintendent Search Committee have failed to produce requested minutes (if they even exist) and related documents used at meetings related to the 2018 Superintendent Search process in a timely manner. This should include the resumes of every candidate who applied for the Superintendent of Schools position. An email request for minutes and documents used at the meeting was sent to Rob Tiro (Chair, School Committee) and Tom Markham (Chair, Superintendent Search Committee) was sent on 3/27 and acknowledged by each person.”
The School Committee has since named Doug Lyons as the next Wakefield Superintendent of Schools.
Lieber’s complaint also alleges that, “Statements made at the 3/27 School Committee meeting by Tom Markham indicate there were many meetings of the Superintendent Screening Committee held without any public notice, and therefore without the possibility of even having an executive session in accordance with OML.
Lieber also claims that members of the School Committee “did not complete the mandatory OML training and file certification with the Town Clerk.”
Finally, Lieber charges that, “The Wakefield School Committee has been repeatedly ordered to be compliant with the OML. This is an intentional violation as the Wakefield School Committee and subcommittee as the School Committee was found in violation of OML under nearly identical circumstances in OML 2013-163 and reminded of this in the similar violation found in OML 2016-26.”
The Attorney General’s Open Meeting Law Complaint Form asks the complainant, “What action do you want the public body to take in response to your complaint?”
Lieber lists six actions that he would like the School Committee to take.
1. Release meeting minutes where they exist for all relevant meetings.
2. Release documents used at meetings, including resumes of all candidates.
3. Create meeting minutes for any meetings where they do not exist and release them.
4. Have every member of the School Committee and subcommittees get OML training (e.g. watch all OML videos) and certify to the Attorney General they understand OML.
5. Publicly acknowledge each violation and apologize to the public.
6. Fully comply with the OML.
Town Counsel Thomas Mullen told the Item in 2015 that the way Open Meeting Law complaints are handled is for the written complaint to be first filed with the board or committee that is supposed to have violated the Open Meeting Law. That board or committee then either deals with the matter itself or refers it to Town Counsel.
Town Counsel then conducts an investigation and reports his findings to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and to the complainant, in this case Lieber. If the complainant is satisfied with Town Counsel’s conclusions regarding the complaint, no further action will be taken. If the complainant is not satisfied, the Attorney General’s Office may investigate further.
After investigating a complaint filed by Lieber on Aug. 7, 2015, Mullen concluded that the School Committee improperly discussed the possibility of promoting Dr. Kim Smith to Superintendent in executive session at its June 3, 2015 meeting.
Mullen concluded in the 2015 complaint that the School committee should have held all of its discussions concerning the merits of promoting then Assistant Superintendent Smith in open session and should not have discussed it at all in executive session.
Other than voting at a recent meeting to refer the latest complaint to Town Counsel, the School Committee did not discuss or comment on the details of the most recent complaint.