Best Practices Meeting of November 12: Video; Discussion of Term Limits

Here is a complete Google video of the Best Practices Committee meeting of November 12. It’s 2 hours and 57 minutes long. This video is also available in two parts at Vimeo (part one, part two). See the preliminary minutes from the meeting and a picture of the written-on whiteboard here.

In many areas the committee members were able to achieve consensus about which recommendations to put forward to the City Council. However, some suggestions saw disagreement, notably term limits for elected and/or appointed officials, which were touched on during 2:29:50-2:34:57.

See also:

Best Practices Meeting of November 12: Hammering Out the Recommendations
The next meeting of the committee will take place on November 19, 6:00pm, J.F.K. Middle School, Classroom 103,
100 Bridge Road in Florence. The public is encouraged to attend.

Press Release: Best Practices Committee Begins Final Report
The Ad-Hoc Committee on Best Practices in Northampton Decision-Making (Best Practices Committee) is entering the final phase of its activities and beginning the preparation of a draft final report to the Northampton City Council. The draft report will be submitted to the City Council on or before December 4. This will be followed by a 90-day comment period when additional public input will be sought.

Web Home of Ad Hoc Committee on Best Practices in Northampton Decision-Making

Best Practices Meeting Minutes

Citizen Media Law Project: Exceptions to the Open Meeting Law in Massachusetts

[The Best Practices Committee briefly discussed the Open Meeting Law at around 2 hours 27 minutes.]

The general rule is that all meetings of governmental bodies
must be open to the public. If a governmental body wants to hold a
closed session, called an “executive session,” it must identity a
specific statutory exception. Under the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law,
a governmental body may hold an executive session when it is dealing
with one of seven subject-area exemptions found in Mass Gen. Laws. ch. 30A, § 11A 1/2. The seven exemptions are:

  • to discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health of an individual;
  • to consider the discipline or dismissal of, or to hear
    complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee,
    staff member, or individual;
  • to discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining or litigation;
  • to discuss the deployment of security personnel or devices;
  • to investigate charges of criminal misconduct or to discuss the filing of criminal complaints;
  • to consider the purchase, exchange, lease or value of real estate [emphasis added]; and
  • to comply with the provisions of any general or special law or federal grant-in-aid requirements.

Two additional exemptions are available to local-level governmental bodies under Mass Gen. Laws. ch. 39, § 23B:

  • to consider and interview applicants for employment by a
    preliminary screening committee or a subcommittee appointed by a
    governmental body; and
  • to conduct mediation of disputes with other parties.

These exemptions make it permissible for a governmental body to close a meeting, they do not require
the governmental body to do so. Assuming that a governmental body is
dealing with one of these enumerated exceptions, then it may hold an
executive session, but it must also meet the following procedural

  • the governmental body must first convene in an open meeting for which notice was given;
  • at this open meeting, the governmental body must vote by a majority of members present to go into executive session;
  • prior to the vote, the presiding officer must state for the record the statutory exemption relied on to close the meeting; and
  • before going into executive session, the presiding officer
    must state whether the body will reconvene after the executive session.

Governmental bodies must record minutes of executive sessions, but
they may keep these minutes confidential “as long as publication may
defeat the lawful purposes of the executive session, but no longer.” Mass Gen. Laws. ch. 39, § 23B.

For more information on the exceptions to the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law, see the Open Government Guide: Massachusetts, the Open Meeting Law Guidelines, and A Guide to Open Meetings.