Court: Council is OK on transparency

The Boston City Council has changed its ways in the years since a 2005 lawsuit caught it holding illegal secret meetings, a judge ruled this month, declining to keep the council under court monitoring.

Council President Steve Murphy said the decision “vindicates” the council. Co-plaintiff Shirley Kressel called it “surprising,” and said citizens will be less likely to hold the council accountable.

The suit, known as McCrea v. Flaherty, revealed 11 deliberately secret council meetings with Boston Redevelopment Authority and Boston University officials in 2003-05. The meetings violated the state Open Meeting Law, leading courts to fine the council $11,000.

A Sept. 9 Suffolk Superior Court decision ended the suit by saying the council has reformed and ordering it to pay court costs to the plaintiffs: Kevin McCrea, Kressel and Kathleen Devine.

Judge John Cratsley also declined the plaintiffs’ request to put an injunction on the council. The injunction would have put the council in contempt of court if it ever violated the Open Meeting Law again.

Cratsley wrote that in the past two years, “there has been a positive change in the Council’s attitude toward and attention to the requirements of the Open Meeting Law.”

The council’s membership also has changed dramatically since 2005, he noted.

“This decision…really vindicates the Council and acknowledges the efforts it has taken in recent years to observe and respect the Open Meeting Law,” Murphy said in a press statement.

Kressel said the council is still untrustworthy. She expressed concern that anyone spotting future Open Meeting violations would have to sue all over again.

“The loss is not ours. The loss is to the citizens as a whole,” she said.

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