Watertown May Have Violated Open Meetings Law

Watertown May Have Violated Open Meetings Law

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Monday night, Watertown leaders decided to appeal a case against the city firefighters' union to the state's highest court. 

It was an informal consensus; we're told no real vote happened.

Asked where they came down on this decision, most council members won't tell us.

But that informal consensus behind closed doors might be a violation of the Open Meeting Law.

In 2008, in Suffolk County, where a the legislature's closed door meeting, similar to Watertown's, was questioned, a state opinion said even though it was an informal consensus, the decision whether it was made in public or during an executive session, should have minutes published available to the public.

No minutes from Watertown's meeting are available. We don't know if any were taken.

Executive sessions are something former Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham is familiar with, admitting they happen more than they should.

"Many times I tried to be as open as possible, but you're constantly getting beaten on by other interests; administrators and attorneys and so on, who insist on making it quiet," said Graham.

To that, the attorney for Watertown, Bob Slye, who was the city lawyer for most of Graham's tenure and in Monday's closed-door meeting, says, "I don't pressure, I give advice."

So even if this is a violation of the state Open Meetings Law, what does it matter? Not much. In a case like Watertown's, if a court ruled there was a violation, there's a good chance that the informal consensus would stand and no changes would be made.

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