Open Meeting Law Complaint by Ilan Levy on September 23, 2015

Open Meeting Law Complaint by Ilan Levy on September 23, 2015

Open Meeting Law Complaint by Ilan Levy on September 23, 2015


Description of alleged violation

As an independent candidate for Cambridge City Council (“CCC”), I, Ilan Levy, contend that seven current Cambridge city councilors violated the Open Meeting law (“OML”) when they discussed their opinions on issues of public business, and on their joint strategic approach, and leadership, of these issues, outside of a properly posted meeting. At least one such violation occurred prior to the publication of the article in the Cambridge Chronicle posted on September 9, 2015.

On September 9, 2015, the Cambridge Chronicle published an article reporting that seven elected and sitting councilors have decided to run for re-election on a platform of issues on which they have determined to be in agreement (http://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/article/20150909/NEWS/150906753). Vice Mayor Dennis Benzan is quoted as stating that “members of the slate want to build more housing now”. Councilor Marc McGovern indicated that they have made “this commitment to work together…on issues…such as affordable housing, education, poverty, and the environment.” Councilor Leland Cheung said that “by forming a slate, we’re letting voters know that we have worked well…so we can continue to do so.”

By law, The CCC is comprised of nine members. In forming any substantial alliance, the individual allies need to first exchange views. In order to form the unity slate, the seven councilors exchanged views on a wide range of major issues, from affordable housing, to residential tax rates, to their joint current and future collaboration on these issues. Such communications involved questions of public improvements, finances, and the body’s own leadership—business that falls squarely within the CCC jurisdiction. [OML 2014-14 (stating that “discussions about a public body’s own leadership do concern public business within that body’s jurisdiction”, and are not mere political statements)]. No notices of these meetings were posted and no minutes were kept. In their formation of a slate, the seven councilors have violated the OML, by engaging in deliberation outside of a meeting, on matters presently, and prospectively before the CCC.

In addition, the seven councilors intentionally and deliberately violated the OML. Five of the seven councilors (Cheung, Kelley, Simons, Maher, and Toomey) were found to have violated the OML in 2013. [OML 2013-76]. In that decision, the Attorney General’s Office warned that future similar violations may be considered evidence of intent to violate the Law. The facts of that case parallel this current complaint. In 2013, an OML violation was found when the CCC, outside of a posted meeting, conducted an improper poll of the sponsorship of a City Manager appointment, obtained co-sponsorships of the appointment, and appointed the sponsored individual to the position. In 2015, the seven councilors, outside of a properly posted meeting, conducted a poll of their views on various policy issues, obtained commitments to their common agreement on those issues, and mutually sponsored each other’s candidacy for re-election. The commonality of the facts in both cases calls for a finding that the violation of the law was intentional and deliberate.

Given that the slate was formed in order to influence voters in an election less than six weeks away, in the interest of democracy, the seven councilors should respond and correct the violation as swiftly as possible.


DECLARATION OF RELIEF SOUGHT

The seven councilors should
Publicize all slate-related communications, discussions, and other materials, and if unavailable draft minutes of slate-related discussions with sufficient detail and accuracy so that the public clearly understands what occurred.
Publicly acknowledge their intentional and deliberate violation of the law.
Give assurance and evidence of compliance with the law, including detailed record, for all future SR meetings and events, including event of 9/22.
if compliance and giving assurance and evidence of compliance is not practicable, immediately dissolve the slate.