Subcommittee Scuttles Meeting After WHAV News Complaint

The door of Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s office was locked and the lights off at the time of a planned Haverhill School Committee subcommittee meeting. The mayor said the 6 p.m., Thursday, meeting was cancelled by School Committee President Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello.

Members of a Haverhill School Committee subcommittee cancelled a planned secret meeting Thursday night following a complaint from WHAV News.

WHAV alerted local officials and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office that it planned to file a complaint under the state’s Open Meeting Law since it appeared the meeting was to be held for purposes other than those for which the subcommittee was authorized. WHAV came to that conclusion when it learned from school Superintendent James F. Scully that he was not invited to the meeting even though the committee’s charge was to obtain information from the school chief about what he is seeking in a contract extension.

When a WHAV reporter arrived at the posted meeting at 6 p.m., at Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s office, the door was locked and the lights turned off. Responding to a telephone call, the mayor said the meeting was cancelled by School Committee President Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello. Later, she told WHAV the meeting was cancelled because she was unable to attend.

During the regular School Committee meeting Thursday night, Committeewoman Gail M. Sullivan complained about WHAV’s use of the word “secret” to describe the meeting.

“I think the connotation of the word ‘secret’ is really misleading. There are laws that govern executive sessions so I think if they, the law wanted them, consider them to be secret, they’d be called laws governing secret sessions, and they’re not, so I think that’s a really inappropriate term.”

To the contrary, WHAV—like others among the news media—contends “executive session” is a deceptive and misleading term, designed by governments to conceal from the public that residents may not witness or hear certain government deliberations. Fiorentini acknowledged Thursday night WHAV is not alone in having such a policy.

“Some of the media refers to executive sessions as ‘secret meetings.’ That’s what they call executive sessions,” Fiorentini said. The mayor added, however, he agrees with Sullivan.

Meeting posting outside the Haverhill City Clerk's office. Executive session means the public may not attend the meeting.

Meeting posting outside the Haverhill City Clerk’s office. Executive session means discussions within the posted meeting are secret and the public may not attend.

Sullivan also called WHAV earlier in the day, protesting the term “secret,” pointing out that although the public cannot attend, the meeting was properly advertised. WHAV could not find the meeting posted on the city’s website nor on any building with public access 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. However, the posting did appear on the wall outside the city clerk’s office inside City Hall.

WHAV’s original story reported School Committeeman Scott W. Wood Jr. as saying the subcommittee’s job is not to bargain with Scully. “The role of the subcommittee has always been merely to listen to the superintendent’s requests and to report those back. The role of the subcommittee is not to make decisions or negotiate without a directive on parameters from the full school committee.”

In “10 tips to help reporters with stealthy government,” Society of Professional Journalists writer Joel Campbell referred to the word “secret” several times in describing “executive sessions.” He wrote, “Getting past the secrecy of government meetings is an age-old challenge for journalists.” The article concluded, “In the end, journalists are most often on the front lines when government goes into secret.”

10 thoughts on “Subcommittee Scuttles Meeting After WHAV News Complaint

  1. There are laws that govern executive sessions. Negotiations can be public if both sides agree. When I was on the School Committee we were ok with them but many of the other parties refused so they were private. I’d ask if Scully wanted negotiations to be private.

  2. Look into Sullivan’s lies and resume. She claimed to be there superintendent of schools. The truth of thr matter is she was never able to secure a permanent superintendent t job in her career. She was put in an acting position for less than a year. Also, she was doing this islm a district with less students than Haverhill High School. She inflated her resume to look good. Go back to the the Canadian border where you came from. Haverhill was better off without you around.

  3. Great job, Tim. At last — someone is watching out for the overburdened taxpayer. Something untoward going on here that would justify a closed meeting? Soooooo, since we taxpayers are required to pay for any deal that is cooked up, what is the reason for all of this secrecy?

  4. Once again WHAV catches local politicos trying to hide something. Will it ever end ? Who else would have written the story about the Mayor stealing $300k from the Hunking budget ? Nobody. Coco had better be wearing hunter orange when he travels around the city.

  5. Sullivan and Failurentini exposed for the corrupt, lying hacks that they are.
    Like cockroaches they run and hide when the spotlight is put on them.

    Supt Scully has been the best thing that has happened in this city in a long time. These two incompetent fools are going to drive him out of town.

    • I don’t always agree with Wood but he was on target here. What was this meeting about? Cancelled last minute because of something to do? Sullivan’s agenda has been exposed and the so called “educator” she was has also been exposed. Go back to the sticks where you came from!