Bulletin photo by Jordan Griffin

'We’ve said that we would see how this operates and whether a more severe penalty would be a better deterrent, or a better way to get compliance with it (Massachusetts’ open meeting law). But it’s certainly time for us to sit down and see how have we been doing in the last year or so.'

-- Martha Coakley,
Massachusetts attorney general

Coakley concerned about effectiveness of
Mass. open meeting law

By Kristen Lee
Bulletin Staff

When Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley was a young girl, she was a fan of Superman, a reporter and a superhero.

“When he could not with his pen solve the problems of the metropolis, he took out his cape,” Coakley said.

Coakley said that, although real-life reporters can’t secretly be superheroes, the role reporters play in society is still extremely important.

“In my experience, the role you all play, both uncovering corruption and bringing it to our attention, is hugely important,” Coakley said. “You are the ones who are really the guardians of finding that story, finding that pattern, and bringing it to the public’s attention and, more importantly, elected officials’, prosecutors’ attention so that the accountability piece can be brought to bear.”

Coakley discussed her views on the role of the press and the importance of transparency at the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association annual meeting Nov. 29 in Boston to an audience of 40 people.

Coakley said of journalists’ concerns about Massachusetts’ open meeting law: “I know there’s a focus on penalties. We’ve said that we would see how this operates and whether a more severe penalty would be a better deterrent, or a better way to get compliance with it. But it’s certainly time for us to sit down and see how have we been doing in the last year or so.”

Coakley said she was unhappy with how the open meeting law had worked so far but that change was slow in coming because of budget considerations.

Coakley said she could not speak directly about the issue of access to public records because Massachusetts’ public records law, and issues and disputes about that law, are mainly handled by the Massachusetts secretary of state. But Coakley advised the association to work directly on that issue with the Massachusetts legislature.

She noted that the legislature is not subject to the Massachusetts open meeting law, “and if you are OK with that, and you tell them that you’re OK with that, then maybe they’ll be willing to look at some of the other areas that you think need changes.”

Coakley said the move should be toward transparency so that reporters can do their job and hold officials accountable.

“We could take a lesson from states who are a little more modern,” Coakley said. “And a little more transparent, I think.”


POSTED 12/13/12


 

 



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