Hypocrisy and secrecy in City Hall

Lewiston city councilors will convene a special meeting tonight, in executive session, to discuss two finalists for the city administrator position. Councilors-elect are expected to attend as "listeners."

Here's the problem: These councilors-elect are not sworn elected officials yet. They remain mere members of the public and, under Maine's Freedom of Access Act, with very limited exceptions, one member of the public cannot be privy to closed-door meetings unless all members of the "public" are invited to attend.

Lewiston city councilors know all about public meeting requirements.

About two years ago, councilors convened a retreat to discuss their business agenda before they were sworn into office, timing that retreat specifically to avoid falling subject to FOAA. No need to post notices of their meetings or to let the public attend if they weren't yet elected officials, by FOAA definition. They were ordinary citizens talking about the long view of Lewiston.

These same councilors are duly sworn elected officials now and must adhere to Maine's public meetings law. Inviting certain members of the public to "listen" breaks the executive session exception and consumes public trust.

Under the circumstances, though, we understand why councilors-elect might want to listen in to the hiring discussion. The current council is determined to hire a new city administrator before it disbands in January, leaving a fresh council to work with an administrator whom these new council members will have had no hand in hiring.

It's an objectionable push by the current council to foist an administrator appointment on a new council. Especially when the current council had once so vocally objected to being treated the same way.

Two years ago, when current councilors hovered between election and swearing in, they called on their predecessors not to appoint committee members or make major decisions that new councilors would have to uphold. It was better, they argued, to hold off important actions until the new council took its seat to conduct that business.

Now, these same councilors who successfully convinced the preceding council to wait on certain decisions are rushing the city administrator hiring decision before they leave office, despite pleas from the public and some councilors-elect that they hand this task to the new council. It's hypocritical. Extremely so.

Tonight the Lewiston City Council will convene an executive session, with members of the public improperly in attendance, to wrestle between secrecy and hypocrisy. It's a dismal end to a divisive and regrettable two years at City Hall.

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Comments

Nathan McCarron's picture

How much are these "city

How much are these "city attorney" opinions costing us above and beyond the retainer?
Or is this another case of fishing for an opinion since there was a high chance MMA would have come out against such a meeting?

-- "I'm here for the beer and nuts. Only I've not found the beer here, but there are plenty of nuts!"

Just another overreaction

Just another overreaction from the Sun JornalAND Ms. Meyers!

RONALD RIML's picture

Robert61; Under Branzburg v.

Robert61;

Under Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972) - the Supreme Court ruled that the press has no protection against revealing it's sources under certain circumstances. Now you want to know who spilled the beans.

Had you been charged in a criminal case, you would have had the right to subpeona the Sun Journal. But it wasn't a criminal case - and you don't have that right.

Ironic that you've hidden your lack of transparency under the defense of "Executive Session" - yet you complain of a the Press' right to the Confidential Informant.

Reckon that's part and parcel of 'Checks and Balances.' Had you been more straighforward in your governance the occasion for a 'CI' would not have arisin.

------------------------------------------
When I was a young Sailor - I drank like a Sailor, fought like a Sailor, and screwed like a Sailor. Now that I am old and wise - I have a few scars, but many fond memories.

Andrew MacIsaac's picture

I can't believe she was even

I can't believe she was even elected again after quitting last time. "When the going gets tough, Bernier quits."
Sometimes I think the voters of Lewiston get exactly what they deserve.

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Eric Potvin's picture

"Hypocrisy and secrecy in

"Hypocrisy and secrecy in City Hall".. does seem to be a bit ridiculous... It's too bad there isn't some sort of clause that allows newly elected officials to attend exec. sessions if the council deems it appropriate.. As Bob says above.. it is only to help get the new council up to speed.. i can't see how that hurts anyone.. Didn't the U.S. gov't bring Obama up to speed on a few things shortly after he was elected. but before he took oath? Entirely different circumstance i admit, but similar nonetheless.

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