City council to face open meeting claim

April 3, 2009
By

JOHN RUCH

The saga of Open Meeting Law violations by the Boston City Council is continuing with a contempt-of-court claim involving all three of the announced candidates for mayor, the Gazette has learned.

A 2005 citizen lawsuit, now reportedly in the settlement stages, resulted in the City Council being fined for 11 deliberate violations of the state’s Open Meeting Law.

The lead plaintiff was Kevin McCrea, who is now a mayoral candidate. The lead defendant was the council’s then-president, Michael Flaherty, who is also running for mayor.

The other announced mayoral candidate, City Councilor Sam Yoon, was not a council member at the time of the Open Meeting Law violations. But he and Flaherty both were involved in the 2007 incident that, the plaintiffs allege, is another Open Meeting violation that puts the council in contempt of court.

The incident, recorded on a videotape that McCrea has put on YouTube, shows the City Council engaging in a quiet discussion—so quiet the audience could not hear—about a “personnel” matter in the middle of a council meeting.

McCrea told the Gazette he believes that the mini-meeting authorized a large pay increase and a new job for Paul Walkowski, a former aide to the late City Councilor James Kelly. Shortly afterward, Walkowski was employed by then council president Maureen Feeney to write a report proposing that the City Council be ex-empt from the Open Meeting Law—apparently his only job for the council.

“There’s a standing court order that the City Council not violate the Open Meeting Law,” McCrea said. The plaintiffs filed a contempt of court motion this week.

McCrea noted the court filing is not a direct part of his mayoral campaign, but the case and the campaign are closely related. Similarly, Flaherty has credited the lawsuit with making him an open-government activst—one of the bases for his run.

While the City Council took the heat for the 11 Open Meeting Law violations, McCrea noted, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) was involved in orchestrating most of them.

Citizens advisory committees (CAC) formed by the BRA and the mayor to review real estate developments have become controversial for secrecy in Jamaica Plain and other neighborhoods in recent years, as the Gazette previously reported.

“That is just a huge issue,” McCrea said of closed-door CAC meetings. “These community groups are obviously hand-picked by the mayor, and for them to meet behind closed doors and call it a public process is Orwellian, almost.”

Best of JP 2014