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Open meeting violations need closer scrutiny

Posted: April 5, 2013 - 9:11am

Since the recent passing of my father, the quotes he often made have more meaning to me. This one makes great sense now “Is that a reason or an excuse for what you did?” One is the truth and the other is well ... an excuse. I question our current KPB Assembly. An old adage states ignorance of the law is no excuse, but should the KPB Assembly get off with “we didn’t know?”

Since the first of the year 2013, we the people, have witnessed 5 Assembly members breaking the Open Meetings Act Law. Yes, that’s the majority of our local governing body.

Does their Oath of Office exempt them from enforcement of the law? I, for one, don’t think so. Dad would also say “no money can buy my vote.” Their job is their money and power. Their Oath guarantees we, the people, control them as a true Republic.

If a violation of their Oath is only remedied by “I didn’t know, I am sorry” or “what matter does it make now” then their ignorance was an excuse. Try telling that to the traffic cop when you didn’t see the last posted speed limit sign when he stops you for speeding and contest it in court to a Judge. You know what the judge will say.

When more than three elected officials meet to talk issues of government business without prior public notice and/or communicate amongst themselves, that’s a violation of the OMA and a Violation of Oath.

What do we good citizens do? We call for enforcement of the laws that protect us. Of course they have an excuse: it was a “public good we met like that and a service to the public.” That brings another old adage to mind: “No good deed goes unpunished.” But was it a good deed if you break the law?

Think about it folks. Do we want ignorance to prevail? Then what is the use of the OMA Law? One thing I know is that’s not how a Republic is run.

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santini 04/05/13 - 06:33 pm
Open meeting violations need closer scrutiny

I presume Ed Martin refers to the four Assembly members who appeared simultaneously on a radio talk show. If so, Mr. Martin is totally correct about the recent possible violation of the Open Meeting Act (OMA). I noted that the four Assembly members 'owned up' to it during their final comment period during a recent Assembly meeting. It reminded me of cats covering up things after the fact in the litter box.

Providing there is enough interest, there might even be a request for an "interpretation" of this 'alleged' OMA violation by the Borough's legal office. Perhaps even a memo might be issued cautioning Assembly members to be aware of the "intricacies" of OMA. As Mr. Martin points out, it's not all that difficult to adhere to the standards required by OMA:

"When more than three elected officials meet to talk issues of government business without prior public notice and/or communicate amongst themselves, that’s a violation of the OMA..."

The OMA has been been interpreted to include all sorts of electronic media and telephonic circumstances. Compliance is not difficult. One or two or three, Okay. Four or more, not Okay. So, we either have fools for our elected officials or ones who believe that expressing their similar agenda to a radio audience is of such paramount public interest that compliance with OMA is just too inconvenient. Remember, these are the very people who write and pass the laws we are all expected to obey.

What can be done? I would suggest that the Borough Attorney investigate the incident (radio station tapes of the talk show are readily available) and then issue a letter stating that the four Assembly members (by name) violated OMA in substance and spirit. This letter should be included in the next Assembly packet for public scrutiny.

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