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Editorial: A Matter of Professionalism and Transparency

Editorial: A Matter of Professionalism and Transparency

By Meghan Peterson, PhD, HaddamNow staff writer, Haddam News Composition Editor. 

When a local paper staff writer/editor reaches out to a Town board or commission member for clarification on a point mentioned during a public meeting, the response is oftentimes professional, cordial, and informative.  

This was not the case when I contacted Selectman Melissa Schlag requesting that she “point me to the specific provision within the relevant CGS [Connecticut General Statutes] texts to which you [Schlag] were referring?”  

My inquiry was based on a claim Schlag made during the January 8 Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting that two sessions within executive session at the December 6, 2017 BOS meeting were illegal due to the Assistant to First Selectman, JoAnn Ricciardelli, being present for them.  

In response to my inquiry, Schlag wrote: 

“Hi Meg,
Are you seriously asking me this question?
Your signature implies you have a PhD in political science.
You also dabble in journalism.
With these two factoids, I should not have to point you to the open government statutes of Connecticut.
You should know them by now.
But if you don’t, I can point you to some free classes, just let me know! 😏 

Have a good night,
Melissa” 

Here, Selectman Schlag was either unable or unwilling to supply statutory evidence for her claim. In addition, her response indicates a flagrant disregard for professionalism, disclosure, and transparency in an exchange with a Haddam resident – elements she purports to uphold. Let us expect improved…and yes, more professional, communication from our public officials in 2018.

Editors’ Note: A main objective of Haddam News/HaddamNow is to be a source of balanced, non-partisan information for our town. We therefore like to offer a point/counterpoint format for editorials. To that end, we have tried to acquire a counterpoint Editorial, but have received none at this point. Any takers?

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7 Responses to Editorial: A Matter of Professionalism and Transparency

  1. David Lambe

    January 14, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    This isn’t journalism. It’s an incredibly unprofessional article with a narrative that contains nothing but a childish, whiny complaint. Proverbially stomping your foot and using the media to shout it loud is irresponsible. You should be ashamed of yourself. Journalists get the story, they don’t make themselves the story! Did you even bother to look it up yourself? It seems you were satisfied with her response because it reinforced your clear biases against Melissa. Your PhD, gives the reader a certain expectation of decorum which you don’t seem able to meet. Why not do your readers a favor and do your research instead of whining that you couldn’t get the answer you expected.
    Imagine someone from out of town reading this. Whether they agree with you or not, it’s embarrassing.

  2. Sean Moriarty

    January 15, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Unfortunately a quick Google check by Ms. Peterson would have turned up this very handy web site:

    http://www.ct.gov/foi/cwp/view.asp?a=4163&Q=489170 and this statute:
    Sec. 1-231. (Formerly Sec. 1-21g). Executive sessions. (a) At an executive session of a public agency, attendance shall be limited to members of said body and persons invited by said body to present testimony or opinion pertinent to matters before said body provided that such persons’ attendance shall be limited to the period for which their presence is necessary to present such testimony or opinion and, provided further, that the minutes of such executive session shall disclose all persons who are in attendance except job applicants who attend for the purpose of being interviewed by such agency.

    (b) An executive session may not be convened to receive or discuss oral communications that would otherwise be privileged by the attorney-client relationship if the agency were a nongovernmental entity, unless the executive session is for a purpose explicitly permitted pursuant to subdivision (6) of section 1-200. (P.A. 75-342, §11; P.A. 81-431, §5; P.A. 86-226; P.A. 97-47, §9.)where in a few short sentences she would have found her answer.

    By reading this statute it does appear that the town has once again violated the F.O.I. statutes as Ms. Ricciardelli is not a member of the B.O.S. and her testimony was not required for the executive session.

  3. Chip Frey

    January 16, 2018 at 7:19 am

    Perhaps David Lambe should have looked and seen that this was not an “article” or “story”,as he describes it.It was an editorial, quite different in meaning and content and structure. “Embarrassing”, as you said, I think not, take a look in the mirror.

  4. Chip Frey

    January 16, 2018 at 7:28 am

    Thanks Sean Moriarty. Did you not see the minutes from the BOS meeting? Your pals at FOI have another understanding of what can happen at Executive session.

    • Sean Moriarty

      January 17, 2018 at 8:18 am

      Chip, Perhaps I am missing something. I can find no minutes from the January 8 meeting on the town’s web site.If you were referring to the December 6 BOS meeting, there is only an opinion from the town attorney that Ms. Riciardelli was allowed in the executive session. A reading of the FOI statute that I posted would indicate that this is not the case. Please direct me to any comments made by the FOI commission on this matter.

    • Sean Moriarty

      January 17, 2018 at 8:36 am

      Chip, I believe you are referring to the article in Haddam Now where an attorney for the FOI commission was contacted, not the minutes of the meeting. According to that attorney the secretary can record who is in the meeting and then record the the duration of the meeting once they come out of executive session. I still see no provision in the statute for the secretary to attend the actual meeting. I guess we will have to see the opinion of the Commission.

  5. Kevin Francis

    January 20, 2018 at 8:02 am

    I would assume with a PhD you would be very familiar and proficient in the skills of doing research. Perhaps you are just one of a few people that like to publicly grind their axes. Grow up people. We are supposed to be adults.