Rochester (ECWd) -
The Rochester Fire Protection Board met last night for a special meeting of which the board voted unanimously to increase the tax levy to the maximum possible without having to hold a truth in taxation hearing. A call for them to reconsider increasing the burden on the taxpayers due to their current surplus of funds was ignored.
The board did not vote to fill a future vacancy as was outlined on the agenda and covered in this article. They tabled that action and chose to address the appointment process after the resignation takes place to include extending the deadline for applicants to 10 days after the resignation is official. This cuts the current President, John Fox, out of the interview process of filling the vacancy created upon his resignation. This is a good thing in light of the clear inability to be transparent and keep all the board members informed rather than only those he chooses.
The attorneys for the district read a letter to the board that basically scolded them and provided future direction to include recommending they not hold any more closed sessions. However, the concern as to why not to hold those closed sessions was misplaced in our opinion. The attorney said that suggestion was because when they do have a closed session the result is a PAC (Public Access Counselor) complaint.
What the attorney should have focused on is the fact those PAC requests for review were done because a board member believed the law was not followed. We have confirmed the District's attorney was present when one of those violations took place. Maybe a better reason for not holding a closed session is because they have proven they can't stick within the parameters set by law.
A request for review to the PAC is a method of accountability to the rule of law as well as an educational tool to ensure the law is understood and followed. Other than the embarrassment it brings when the PAC finds the public body has violated the law, there is no punishment. In the case of the RFPD, the PAC confirmed they violated the Open Meetings Act and the result was their attorneys providing some very good suggestions to keep them from continuing their bad habits. Mission accomplished if they follow the advice.