The state's Opening Meeting Law is of critical importance in allowing the press and public access to government, assuring that those appointed and elected to office are behaving honorably and not abusing their privileges. That said, not every violation is equal -- some are far more serious than others. If that perspective is lost there is the danger of Inspector Javert-like pursuits of well-meaning citizens that could cause greater harm to the community than the meeting law violations.
At the municipal level, Open Meeting Law violations by a city council or school committee are serious because those groups establish policies and/or increase and cut budgets. The three Open Meeting Law violations that the state attorney general's office has found the Reid School Council Community Outreach Subcommittee to be guilty of following complaints registered by School Committee member Terry Kinnas are less serious. The group, consisting of volunteers interested in bettering Reid and the larger community, had no discernible ill intent and was guilty at most of a lack of knowledge about the Opening Meeting Law.
The AG's admonition to the Reid subcommittee that it follow meeting law regulations in the future is of no relevance as the subcommittee has disbanded in apparent frustration with the entire process. After the subcommittee filed a complaint with the School Committee alleging that Mr. Kinnas acted in a threatening manner and harassed volunteers and school employees, the School Committee reprimanded Mr. Kinnas by a 5-1 vote with Mr. Kinnas, who denied the allegations made against him, voting in opposition.
Mr. Kinnas told The Eagle that he believes an "overall benefit will come out of this." We hope so as well, and it is further hoped that this lengthy controversy won't persuade Pittsfield residents, as it apparently did the members of the now defunct Reid subcommittee, that volunteering to participate in school and city affairs is not worth the potential aggravation.