The Block Island Times

Editorial: BIHS abandons open meeting law

Aug 17, 2012

This week, the 10-day deadline for Block Island Health Services to answer the Times’s request for documents related to open meetings came and went with no response.

It’s pretty incredible that the board refuses to produce even the minutes of open session meetings, which the Times requested for the past three monthly meetings.

The Times also requested emails between board members in an effort to examine whether the board has been conducting “rolling quorums,” or meetings that are held via email or phone call without public notice or knowledge.

One point: these document requests don’t seek information about the controversial firing of administrator Monty Stover last month. Under state law, any discussion of personnel matters is kept private unless the individual in question asks for it to be public, and Stover did not.

What the Times is trying to get at is something more basic: Whether the BIHS board is following its own bylaws, which require it to follow open meeting law.

And this week, it was pretty clear that it isn’t. The lack of response to the paper’s document request aside, the board flouted open meeting law: Members met last weekend for what was apparently a closed-session meeting without posting notice or holding an open-session vote to go into closed session, as state law mandates.

Whether the BIHS board’s failure to follow the law or to produce meeting minutes shows that it has abandoned its own bylaws, or is simply in a shambles, it’s hard to tell.

But one thing is clear. The BIHS management contract with the town is up for renewal — actually, it expired last year — and it’s time for the town to take charge. Do we want the board to follow open meeting law? Do we think there needs to be change in the leadership of this most vital of island institutions? If so, the contract renewal is the time to make it happen.


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