GENIUS IS FOUND EVERYWHERE BUT IN POLITICS, WHERE INTEGRITY COMES THE CLOSEST … PSC’s VIOLATION OF THE LAW BODES ILL FOR PITTSFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, AUG. 15, 2013) — Before we finish with Terry Kinnas‘ triumph and the Pittsfield School Committee‘s defeat in the AG’s ruling on an Open Meeting Law allegation, we present this brief meditation on genius.
When intuition not only infuses but overcomes experience, we find ourselves in the presence of the possibility of genius. Nothing is a given. In genius, we find the premonition of extracted possibility, making mere presentiment of impossibility. The “impossible?” — It doesn’t exist when genius contemplates the actions viable within the bounds of reality but not recognized as such by most others. Television. Electricity. Splitting the atom. The examples are countless.
The term “genius” gets thrown about casually these days. It seems in this day when All is Marketing, anyone who excels at a particular skill or in a specific field is a “genius.” IQs, over 150 make you a genius. Over 175, and you are a supergenius. Over 200, unmeasurable genius. Bill Belichick is a “genius” Lady Gaga is a “genius.” Geniuses are a dime a dozen, in every field except one.
There are no geniuses in politics.
The attainment of power and the grinding of its wielding cannot produce prodigies. THE PLANET would need another 5,000 words to explain why, syllables that we shall mercifully skip. The simplest explanation, reductio ad absurdem, is that politics is too dirty and back stabbing. The closest democratic politics can approach genius can be found in the quality of integrity. Unfortunately, in politics, integrity shows up about as often as Howard Hughes. When it does, however, we have something and someone exceptional on our hands.
Enter Terry Kinnas. He’s not a genius. For that matter, he’s not a “politician” in the usual, scummy sense. He’s a man with integrity.
His critics point out Kinnas’ penchant for rambling, for getting too much into the “Inside Baseball” of issues, for being dry as Canada, and for being as exciting as a brown bow tie. Even if all of that is true, nothing matters more than the man’s character. Politics measures that as “integrity.” A person with integrity is sincere, truthful, and trustworthy. That described Kinnas.
THE PLANET reported yesterday that the state Attorney General’s office validated Kinnas’ Open Meeting Law complaint filed against his colleagues on the Pittsfield School Committee. The AG ruled that the PSC illegally deliberated over the hiring of the new superintendent by secret e-mail. Here’s a copy of the AG’s letter, sent to the PSC’s hired gun:
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Russell J. Duperc, Esq.
General Counsel Pittsfield School Committee
223 College Highway Southampton, MA 01073
RE: Open Meeting Law Complaint
Dear Attorney Dupere:
This office received an Open Meeting Law complaint from Terry Kinnas, dated January 10, 2013, alleging that the Pittsfield School Committee (the “Committee”) violated the Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A, §§ 18-25. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the Committee Chair “sent out an email requesting that members look at a document that was developed in an open meeting” and asked members for their input. The complaint was filed with the Committee on or about November 14, 2012. The Committee responded by letter dated December 14, 2012.
Following our review, we find that the Committee violated the Open Meeting Law by deliberating over email. See OML 2011-37; OML 2011-35.1 [PLANET's underline]
On October 15, 2012, Committee Chair Alfred Barbalunga sent an email to the other members of the Committee with two attached documents, writing “please review the two attached documents & drop a line with any suggested modifications – need this by tomorrow/16th evening.” One Committee member replied to the email on October 16, 2012, attaching her suggested changes to the document. After the complainant raised concerns about email deliberation. Chair Barbalunga sent an email to the Committee members on October 18, 2012, writing that “only kathy y. & myself have incorporated any changes to date, if you have any last suggestions, please email [the superintendent search consultant] directly by 9am tomorrow.”
1 Open Meeting Law determinations may be found at the Attorney General’s website, www.mass.gov/ago/openmeeting.
August 9, 2013 OML 2013-114The Chair’s October 15, 2012 email constituted improper deliberation because it was sent to a quorum of the Committee and solicited Committee members’ opinions outside of a meeting. See G.L. c. 30A, § 18; OML 2011-35.1 The response sent by one of the Committee members, attaching suggested edits to a document, was also deliberation. The Chair’s October 18, 2012 email was not deliberation, however, because it provided a document to be discussed at a meeting, and requested that suggested edits be sent to a non-Committee member for review, in this case the Superintendent Search Consultant.
We appreciate the Committee’s vote in response to the complaint that “in the future all input will be sent directly to the third party consultants.” We order the Committee’s immediate and future compliance with Open Meeting Law, and consider the complaint addressed by this determination to be resolved. Please feel free to contact our office at (617) 963-2540 if you have any questions or believe any facts in this letter to be inaccurate.
cc: Pittsfield School Committee Terry Kinnas
This determination was issued pursuant to G.L. c. 30A, § 23(c). A public body or any member of a body aggrieved by this order may obtain judicial review through an action filed in Superior Court pursuant to G.L. c. 30A, § 23(d). The complaint must be filed in Superior Court within twenty-one days of receipt of this order.
1 Open Meeting Law determinations may be found at the Attorney General’s website, wvvw.mass.gov/ago/openmeeting.
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This may seem to be a trivial matter, and one could argue such, except for one thing. A person has to ask: If the committee members other than Kinnas don’t know the Open Meeting Law, what other laws do they not know? If they do know the law, why did they ignore it? What other law do they ignore? If they have read the Open Meeting Law, they should have realized the illegal nature of their actions. If they violate the law on casual matters, isn’t it reasonable to assume they do so on larger ones?
Pittsfield, recall, is the school district that can have $9,000 in prom money stolen from a locked teacher’s drawer and not do anything about it. The PSD is a district where one of its assistant superintendent’s can basically award the building of a free house to his secretary and have the matter skate away on the thin ice of the next day.
That’s the larger issue: If not for Kinnas, this matter would have remained hidden. Kinnas, a sharp cookie, picks his battles, as anyone willing to fight the GOB must do. How many more violations have occurred that we shall never know about? What is the assurance that the PSC will follow the law, as it promises to do? Why should be believe the members on this point? What else is going on in the PSD at this moment? We hear all kinds of tips, rumors, and reports from dime droppers. Can any of it be true?
Kinnas is the only rookie this term serving on the PSC. Barbalunga, Conant, Yon, Amuso, Bianchi, and Elias each have extensive experience in government, in meetings, and in procedure. You mean to seriously suggest to THE PLANET that not one of them realized they were breaking the law? If that’s the case, then the situation with the Pittsfield Public Schools is far worse than we have previously thought. The alternative is that they did realize they were breaking the law and did so anyway. Which is worse?
And do you think the PSC will be any more respectful of the law and transparent after Kinnas leaves after the end of this term? Right.
THE PLANET has contacted the other six members of the PSC for comment.
Let us know what you think about this and other issues. THE PLANET exists as a platform for ideas, debate, discussion, and deliberation. We aim to give people the avenue for free expression Pittsfield city government so dearly wants to take away from you.
“What is the metre of the dictionary? / The size of genesis? The short spark’s gender? / Shade without shape? The shape of Pharaoh’s echo?” — Dylan Thomas, from 4th stanza, “Altarwise by Owl-Light” (1936)
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.