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Selectmen should televise all meetings

March 1, 2011

This post has been edited since being originally published.

Last week’s Walpole Times featured a report on the Board of Selectmen’s continued lack of transparency, related to the Board’s decision not to televise police promotion interviews. I was concerned by this article, but unfortunately, I was not surprised.

What difference does it make if police promotion interviews are televised? As pointed out by Selectman Eric Kraus in the article, the interviews are already being held at an open meeting, and Kraus noted that anybody can come to the meeting and watch the interviews in person. So if the meeting is supposed to be open anyway, I see no justification for not televising it. An open meeting is an open meeting. All meetings that are open should be televised. This rule should not be violated on a case-by-case basis, subject to the personal discretion of the Chairman of the Board.

It should be noted that all town residents who volunteer to serve on town committees also have to go to a Board meeting and answer questions regarding why they want to be appointed. While I do not know of any recent cases where a resident was publicly denied appointment to a town board at a Board meeting, the Board clearly does not mind televising those interviews.

Similarly, local business owners seeking permits have to go to Board meetings, and often undergo extensive questioning while at the podium. The owner of Allied Recycling, for example, has been through very difficult meetings, and has often been rejected in his attempts to get permits. Yet all Allied Recycling discussions are available on video for all to see on the town website, and were televised live throughout town.

If the Board is truly concerned about sensitivity, as they claimed to be in the Times article, they would not allow business owners and town residents seeking committee appointments to have their interviews at Board meetings televised either.

Working for the government can be difficult at times, but all of the individuals seeking promotion in this case voluntarily chose to apply for those promotions. The people participating in these interviews know what they are getting into and should not apply for the job if they are not prepared for intense public scrutiny.

New Deputy Police Chief John Carmichael, who himself participated in an open selectmen interview, told the Times that televising his interview would not affect him. “To me, either way, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference,” he told the Times. Carmichael seemed to indicate he would not care if his interview was televised, and therefore the Board should not care either.

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