Ah, the Open Meeting Law complaint. There are few tools in a protester’s tool box more effective at embarrassing decision-makers than the state’s rules on the proper noticing of public hearings.
The latest example came last night when a group, which opposes deals offered by the city to General Electric to relocate here, stopped a meeting of the Boston Planning and Development Agency in its tracks. The newly renamed agency (formerly the BRA) had been expected to approve plans for GE’s new Fort Point headquarters, for which the corporation had been offered $25 million in tax breaks.
But the group, Make GE Pay, cried foul over the way the meeting had been promoted, and accused the agency of limiting the opportunity for public input on it. A print-out of the agenda had been stored in a locked glass case in City Hall, its members say, and the parts of it that indicated there would be discussion about GE were not visible. The group announced it filed an OML complaint in a tweet.
— Make GE Pay (@makeGEpay) October 20, 2016
According to the news site Universal Hub, as well as activists who were watching the hearing, the board took a long recess, then decided to postpone discussions and public comment for a few weeks.
“We are reviewing a possible clerical error that occurred when noticing the agenda for last night’s meeting, but out of an abundance of caution a portion of the Oct. 20 Boston Planning & Development Agency board agenda items will be voted on a later date, yet to be determined,” BPDA spokeswoman Gina Phsyic wrote in an email.
The Open Meeting Law, an accountability statute that covers everything from legislative hearings to meetings of local planning boards, prohibits public bodies from holding meetings without letting people know about them in public as early as is reasonable. When they don’t, people can complain. And, for the officials accused of it, it’s never a good look.
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