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From: Tyngsboro board votes to publicize contract talks
Archived offline: The Sun, John Collins, 12/21/10
TYNGSBORO — In what may be a precedent-setting move in New England, the town will publicize an updated list of all union, or individual employee salary and benefits demands, and town counteroffers, while contract negotiations are ongoing, selectmen decided last night.
Selectman Bob Jackson’s motion, “to bring reasonable information out to the public about what has been going on during these executive sessions,” passed 4-1, with only Chairwoman Ashley O’Neill voting against. Board members Rich Lemoine and Rick Reault also voted in favor of the measure.
“I think once we add a public forum to that, it’s going to be difficult for the town of Tyngsboro to be negotiating on the front page of the newspaper, instead of in Town Hall in the actual negotiating sessions,” O’Neill said.
Jackson cited the state of Georgia’s use of the Sunshine Law as the model for his motion, which he carefully worded with the aid of Town Counsel Darren Klein.
Greater transparency was his goal, Jackson said.
“I’m not looking to subvert the process in any way,” Jackson said. “I’m looking to bring reasonable information out to the public about what has been going on during these executive sessions.”
Jackson said he believes taxpayers have a right to receive updates on “the things that bargaining units are requesting of this board, this community, and what our responses are to that, and what we’re offering in return.”
“It is my belief that it will be a fairer process, not only for the individuals who are negotiating but for the community at large,” he added.
Selectman Elizabeth Coughlin, who seconded Jackson’s motion, said she favors giving the public in-progress updates on town contract negotiations because it would serve to eradicate the spread of “misinformation” and false rumors that has occurred during closed-door bargaining talks in the past.
WORDING OF SELECTMAN BOB JACKSON’S MOTION:
“A motion to provide reasonable disclosures to the public of information discussed during employee contract negotiations at the public Board of Selectmen meeting following a negotiating session. The disclosures will consist of a list of the proposals/requests and responses by both negotiating parties provided: The disclosures are not aimed at frustrating the bargaining process; the statements do not indicate an unwillingness to bargain in good faith; and the statements are not of such frequency as to potentially become an abuse of privilege.”
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