Lawrence Councilor Files Open Meeting Law Violation Complaint Against Council, Neighborhood Carnival Runs Afoul of Law

Hispanic Week Carnival in 2014 on the NORTH Common in Lawrence

Lawrence City Councilor Marc Laplante (District F) has filed an Opening Meeting Law complaint to the City Clerk claiming that the city council approved the use of the South Lawrence Common (O’Connell Park) for a carnival without giving proper notice to city residents.  

The Lawrence City Council has held several illegal meetings without notifying the public, as well as illegal secret sessions since Council President Modesto Maldonado took over as the body’s leader. 
According to Councilor LaPlante, the city council’s April 7th vote allowed a carnival to take place on the South Lawrence Common from May 7-10th to help fund Lawrence’s Semana Hispana (Hispanic Week) festival. The carnival was originally scheduled to be held at the Campagnone (North) Common, but organizers learned after its submission that the construction at that common would not be completed in time to locate the event.
Lawrence City Councilor Marc LaPlante

“While I appreciate the importance of the fundraiser, the way it was handled did not give neighbors any notice that a major carnival would be held outside their front doors until 11pm for three nights and until 9pm on a Sunday,” Laplante said. LaPlante is the city councilor who represents the South Common neighborhood. 

“What is even worse,” he added, “was that another suitable location, Gateway Park, was bypassed by the City Council even though it is a more profitable location with little impact on a residential neighborhood.” 
Residential homes with school children and working families surround the South Common in a much closer proximity than the homes surrounding the North Common where the carnival is usually held.
Laplante also raised concerns that the proper permits were not obtained by organizers. 
“Ten city departments signed off on the use of the North Common, but did not sign off on the use of the South Common. Never before has the City Council approved a use of a public park without the proper authorizations by city officials.” 

“It is unfair that people in this neighborhood were not given an opportunity to know that a major carnival would be outside their front yards. In addition, not one city department has approved of this new location which after their review they may find unsuitable. I share the frustration of these neighbors who feel like they have no voice in the decision to use their neighborhood as a fundraising tool for Carnival organizers.” 
The City Council now has 14 business days to act on Laplante’s complaint and forward a copy of the complaint and description of the remedial action to the Attorney General.