Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Future news

The Valley News Dispatch that hit the news stands this morning carried as its lead story "Council plans illegal meeting tonight."

Laurels to the Valley News Dispatch for blowing the whistle on this misbehavior before it happens. This is timely information given to the public when it makes a difference.

This is almost like something out of science fiction; it reminds me of the part of "Back to the Future Part II" where Marty decides to bring a sports almanac from the future back in time. Except - without time travel - the VND was in the position of telling a story about a law that is about to be broken at 7:00 PM tonight if the Apollo Borough Council convenes for a general business meeting without having advertised its meeting in accord with the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.

I don't know whether all solicitors have the responsibility for seeing that meetings are properly advertised, but that borough's solicitor appears to be right in the middle of the process for this proposed illegal meeting. There wasn't enough time to advertise the meeting, but his office had time to send a news release about the meeting. Very odd.

Lances to the Valley News Dispatch for leaving a key fact out of the story. The story tells WHEN the meeting is to happen (tonight at 7:00). It tells WHO is involved (names of the Council members and the borough solicitor). It tells WHAT law is going to be broken and WHY the plans are illegal. But it omits a statement of WHERE the illegal meeting is to happen. If I wanted to find my way to Apollo (where I have never been) and watch the travesty happen, I would not know where to go in Apollo. The story does not have the sidebar that usually accompanies stories about legally advertised meetings telling when and where.

It appears that the council hoped that a news story about their meeting tonight would lead to actual notice to the public where they had not given the public statutory notice. Whether the omission of the place was intentional on the part of the paper or not, the story as it was written does not give the public a key piece of information that the borough should have paid to have advertised in the first place.

If I had time tonight I might have wanted to find my way to that meeting to see whether it actually convenes, and whether any council members carry copies of today's VND and ask their solicitor for advice about the illegality of what they are about to do. I wonder if they'll think to ask about the fines for individuals who intentionally violate the Sunshine Act. And I'd really love to be able to hear his answers. What a pity. The Valley News Dispatch keeps all the fun for its reporters.

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Anonymous said...

It baffles me that the VND would cover this story and the continual problems in Millvale and find that the running amuck by the Tarentum Boro Council isn't news worthy.

Our council, or some members, have in fact violated the Sunshine Law in so any ways it is becoming a truly frightening thing. They hold committee meetings at random without benefit of public awarness, directives and orders are sent to the Boro manager for executon, again, without benefit of public awarness, agendas are changed prior to meetings and minutes to meetings are amended to reflect the 'correctness' of their past mistakes.

I think that any time a governing body hides their actions and motives from the public is a huge problem and should be monitored at all turns. And I believe the residents of Tarentum are entitled to that informtion. If we cannot get it from the council after repeatedly asking, then the media should be obligated to report to the people.

Hopefully when the next meeting rolls around the school board strike will be a thing of the past and the VND will feel us worthy of attending the meeting.

Stewart said...

Anonymous, I understand your disappointment, and I'm sure that the VND will cover other future meetings of Tarentum's council.

Now, can you figure out a way to get Tarentum's council to ask their solicitor to send a fax to the paper announcing the laws they intend to break at the next council meeting? Good luck!

Stewart said...

Anonymous, I'll modify the challenge.

Can you get the Tarentum Borough Council to direct the solicitor to send a fax to the paper announcing a single law the council intends to break at the next meeting?