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Facebook Comment Starts Heated Debate in Mansfield

Selectmen and School Committee debate open meeting and executive session.

Mansfield School Committee members expressed their concerns Wednesday to the board of selectmen regarding a comment selectmen chair Olivier Kozlowski stated on Facebook.

“There is so much content that every little thing happens it can be perceived in a much different way than it was stated,” he said.

The statement was in regard to events at a recent budget sub committee meeting.

School committee chair Michael Trowbridge said that the main complaint was that the comment discussed their committee outside of the public forum (yet still in the public discourse) that could affect current union negotiations for the next budget year. These negotiations affect salaries for school staff across the board, and school superintendent Brenda Hodges said that, with the exception of one union, they are negotiating new terms will all others.

“You’ve done a lot of damage to our negotiation process and I asked the board to consider this is a problem,” said committee member Lisa Losiewicz. “We need to sit on a finance committee with you and not be able to trust your judgment.”

While the committee agreed that the comment in and of itself was innocuous and not out of step with open meeting laws such incidents could inhibit frank and honest discussion on the budget and slow the budget process to rekindle the chaotic nature of events leading to the spring town meeting

Kozlowski said that he felt that any discourse of public nature should be encouraged if it helps people get interested in town government.

“I had said the more people that knew what you guys are going through the more you have the public on your side at the end of the day,” he said. “Trying to influence people’s opinions? At the end of the day I see that as trying to help.”

Kozlowski added that this discretion could be an infraction of open meeting law

Selectman Kevin Moran sympathized with both sides, saying that while any harm done was not intentional, but in negotiations even an imagined slight can have consequences.

“I just never like to put things out there,” he said. “We have a job to do and while I believe what [Kozlowski] is saying but it’s their perception that matters… what happened last spring, it’s very unpleasant to sit there for a week to be called a liar. For the greater good, you just have to work with people… The truth of the matter is if there’s not a level of trust we’re going to be back where we were last spring.”

All eventually agreed that in matters that could in some way affect union negotiations (either on the town or school side) would be discussed in executive session so that open meeting laws would not be compromised.

Robert Reynolds November 08, 2012 at 01:15 PM
These bums are paid by the Town of Mansfield with MY tax dollars. There should NEVER be anything such as "executive session".
Tom Nellis November 08, 2012 at 02:23 PM
It is yet another way to obscure the waste in this town. Let's draw your attention to my left hand while my right hand removes the money from your pocket!
Frank DelVecchio November 08, 2012 at 07:14 PM
All of the local officials are unpaid, and some of them at least are very nice people with the best interests of the Town, as they see it, in their heart(s). There are also specific instances where Executive Session is legally required or otherwise necessary.
Frank DelVecchio November 08, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Interesting. Could you be more specific?
Frank DelVecchio November 08, 2012 at 07:52 PM
In fact, the bulk of the meeting was about allocation of about $4.1 million free cash at Special Town Meeting. What Special Town Meeting? Where did that free cash come from? Exactly - because the only stories we’ve read in any of the local press is a spat over social media usage...
Bob Thomas November 08, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Perhaps it would help everyone to understand the issue if the media elites actually posted the entire Facebook comment(s). Then there would be no "He said, she said" and everyone could get on with life. Oh, silly you, Bob. We would rather create controversy instead - because it stirs up everyone's angst and sells more papers - or at least gets more mileage...
Bob Thomas November 08, 2012 at 10:40 PM
I just looked at Olivier's TWO Facebook pages and there is no mention of free cash (interesting concept because it comes free from the taxpayers to be spent by the spenders).

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