In a Snap Judgment, the Crowd Might Matter
So the Ocean State Policy Research Institute has learned that the State Labor Relations Board is a very quick-thinking group (emphasis added):
By law, such proceedings must be open unless a recorded vote is taken to close the meeting and an explicit exemption under 42-46-5(a) is cited. Any votes taken in closed session must be reported. But SLRB minutes consistently failed to report “the vote of each member on the question of holding a meeting closed to the public and the reason for holding a closed meeting” as required by 42-46-4, and conspicuously fail to report the votes of members taken in these close sessions.
The only remotely applicable exception to the Open Meeting Act that would allow a closed session is that for “any investigative proceedings regarding allegations of misconduct, either civil or criminal”. But these board “investigations” averaged a minute and a half for the 44 cases reviewed in the last year and lately are down to about 30 seconds. For instance, last year’s Nov. 18th executive session at which the East Providence School Committee’s charges against the Teachers’ Union were summarily dismissed lasted only five minutes and eight separate cases were decided, that’s an average of 37.5 seconds each.
That finding certainly has implications for a meeting today, regarding which the East Providence Taxpayers Association said the following in a press release:
Representatives from over a half-dozen Rhode Island good government groups will keep a watchful eye on the decision of the Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board in its first hearing on the controversial East Providence teachers’ union case at the Labor Board’s offices, at 1511 Pontiac Avenue, Building #73 in Cranston on Thursday morning, March 19th from 9 AM – 12 noon.
EPTA spokesman Bill Murphy said, “Good government groups around the state are alarmed by the bias against taxpayers and the School Committee the State Labor Board has displayed in its handling of this case. Representatives from these organizations will be on hand to keep a watchful eye on the Board’s behavior in this important matter. It is obvious to all of us that the Labor Board should never have filed this complaint and should not be hearing this case. The Labor Board does not have the authority to order school committees how to spend their money. It certainly doesn’t have the power to order them to break the laws against deficit spending. The Board simply does not have jurisdiction in this case. At a minimum, the SLRB should wait until the Superior Court issues a decision about whether the case even belongs before the Labor Board.”
Anybody who’s planning to attend should be sure to be on time. Given the board’s habitual pace, the hearing could be over faster than a taxpayer can say “point of order.”