Flirtin’ with Disaster: The Lawrence City Council and the Open Meeting Law

The Ordinance Committee finally had two meetings in a row, so the May 1st meeting of the full council contained over 20 of their reports. It was the first council meeting since March 6th that had any of that committee’s reports on its agenda.

The Open Meeting Law (OML) requires posting agendas 48 hours before meetings, excluding weekends and holidays, so Patriots Day prevented any reports from the Ordinance Committee’s April 12th meeting being included at the council’s second meeting of April.

The Lawrence City Council has a rather spotty record of complying with the OML, which also prohibits a quorum of councilors from discussing issues before that body in private.

At the council’s May 1st meeting, a quorum of councilors disappeared into their side office during a recess when they were having trouble agreeing to sell a city property to a local non-profit. They quickly passed the item after the recess, raising questions about what occurred in the side room.

Another probable violation of the OML occurred at the Ordinance Committee meeting of April 12th, when Councilor Payano joined the four committee members at the table in front of the room. This formed a quorum, constituting a meeting of the full council, which requires 48 hours’ notice.

Councilor Payano didn’t vote, but seemed to be an active participant in the discussion, asking questions of people in the audience who were at the podium, suggesting amendments to the documents, and restating motions for clarity.

Councilors also seem to be giving out resolutions in violation of the OML. A picture on Facebook dated April 1st shows Councilors Payano, Rodriguez, Levy, and Vasquez handing a proclamation to a local theater group. The caption claims the Lawrence City Council issued a proclamation in support of a local production of “El altar de la locura”.

The four councilors above can give as many proclamations as they want as a group of four councilors, since they do not constitute a quorum, but the “Lawrence City Council” can’t give out a proclamation unless it appears on an agenda. I searched agendas through December of last year and found no such item.

On May 1st, we had another demonstration outside City Hall honoring the struggles of immigrants, especially illegal ones. From the pictures I saw, hardly anyone came. However, our neighborhood planner Wendy Luzon was earning her taxpayer funded salary at the rally.

People seem to be getting immigrant fatigue. Even the immigrants are tired of hearing about it. Just keep showing that caravan at the southern border disrespecting our laws, waving Guatemalan and Mexican flags, getting married to strangers, and demanding to be let into our country. Please, keep showing them.

One group that will never get illegal immigrant fatigue is the Lawrence City Council. At the Ordinance Committee meeting mentioned earlier, one of the items Councilor Payano discussed was regulations for surveillance cameras the police want to deploy.

One of the committee’s major concerns is making sure illegal immigrants are protected and “minorities” are not unfairly targeted by these cameras. How does that even work in Lawrence?
Payano, although an active participant in committees he’s not a member of, missed a meeting of a committee he actually is a member of, the Budget and Finance Committee. Where was he, you ask?

He was sitting in the audience at the School Committee meeting. Councilor Payano, could you please just do your job?