New Bedford Residents Right to File Complaint Against Park Board [OPINION]
The office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey may soon be asked to step in regarding complaints against the members of the New Bedford's Board of Parks, Beaches, and Recreation.
Folks who live near the beach where the City of New Bedford placed a water park have been questioning the process since they first learned of the project. A Texas-based private company, Altitude H2O, and the City are partners in the water park.
The City is getting $3,000 for the exclusive use of a section of ocean and some city waterfront property. The City is also anticipating an additional revenue of $30,000 from the cars parking in their lots to visit the water park. The meters were not collecting money when the project opened and may still be broken now.
The city's Park Board is the entity in charge of the beaches and the parking lots and it was that board that did the public-private business deal with the Texas company.
But was the deal done legally?
The complaints made on August 2 to the Massachusetts Attorney General allege the Park Board violated the Open Meeting Law. The New Bedford residents who made the complaints are asking the A.G. to "invalidate the actions taken" and they are asking for "sanctions and fines" to be imposed.
It's important to note that while this writer has been given a copy of the physical receipt that shows the complaints were sent to the A.G.'s Boston offices, there is still a process that has to be played out before the Attorney General will investigate. First, the residents must file the complaints with the public bodies in question, which then has 14 days to respond to the complaints (or they can ask for an extension). Once the body responds, if the complainant is not satisfied, he or she can then ask the A.G.'s Office to review the complaint, which they will do 30 days from the date the complaint was first filed.
So again, while the A.G.'s Office may currently be in possession of the complaint, they cannot act on it until the residents hear back from the Park Board and decide they're not satisfied with the response.
But something tells me they definitely won't be satisfied, at least with the explanation I've heard.
Peter Boswell, the current Chairman of the Park Board, explained on my radio show on July 15 that the board met in a private "retreat" and decided to go ahead with the project. The retreat, as described by Chairman Boswell, wasn't a posted meeting and it wasn't open to the public.
That seems like a violation of the Open Meeting Law to me, but we will see what happens as the process of trying to figure out exactly what happened plays out.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.