MA: Council’s recess raises Open Meeting Law questions

LAWRENCE – Visibly exasperated and maybe a little embarrassed by the disarray that unfolded as they failed in three votes Tuesday to approve, reject or even just table a proposal to sell two downtown properties to a developer, the city councilors agreed to recess for a few minutes.

Most left the council chambers and went into an adjoining room, closing the door.

The door opened after 18 minutes. The councilors reconvened and took three votes in quick succession and with little debate to add conditions to the sale, followed by another vote, also with little debate, to approve the sale.

To anyone in the audience – and to at least two city councilors who remained in the council chambers for much or all of the 18 minutes – the closed-door recess and the speedy agreements that followed gave the appearance that the councilors had worked out an agreement in private and out of sight.

That would violate the state’s Open Meetings Law and nullify any votes on the issue that followed. Read more…