Under normal circumstances it would not be news that a government committee in New Rochelle would hold a public meeting…unless that committee was the Municipal Civil Service Commission in New Rochelle which has routinely ignored both the New York State Open Meeting Law but the State’s Freedom of Information Law.
After a surprise visit from Talk of the Sound which highlighted numerous violations of the New York State Open Meeting law, Talk of the Sound asked readers and listeners to show up and sit in on the meeting yesterday. Six people attended the meeting in addition to three commissioners and the Civil Service Administrator so there were 10 people in the room. In the past, the CSC has been holding its meetings in a private office behind locked doors without posting official notice, listing the meeting on the City’s web calendar or even putting up a note on the door as to what was going on inside.
The February 2011 meeting of the Municipal Civil Service Commission showed some signs the City was getting the message that the Commission was not exempt from State law. The meeting was noticed on the City web site, the meeting was held in a meeting room, the door law left open and unlocked, a sign was placed in the entrance area of City Hall. This is certainly progress. On the downside, copies of the meeting agenda were not made available to the public, the meeting was not televised or recorded on video tape for archiving on the City web site.
While the CSC has made some progress from last month, it is not even close to enough. Talk of the Sound has called for meaningful reforms to the way the CSC conducts its business:
1. Require that the Municipal Civil Service Commission notify other departments including the City Manager, the Media Relations Department and the City Clerk when they are having their meetings. Readers will recall that “no one” knew about the meeting last month.
2. Require that the Municipal Civil Service Commission properly notice their public meetings per the New York State Open Meeting Law and post their meeting announcements on the City of New Rochelle web site including the calendar.
3. Require that the Municipal Civil Service Commission hold all of its meetings in a room already equipped with video cameras such as the room in 90 Beaufort and broadcast then archive the meetings as is done for meetings of the City Council, IDA, Zoning Appeals and Planning Board; require that signs be posted in and outside the building directing the public to the meeting room on the day of the meeting.
4. Require that a PDF version of the meeting agenda for a Municipal Civil Service Commission be posted on the City web site along with the calendar event; require that copies of the meeting agenda be made available to the public in or near the meeting room on the day of the meeting.
5. The Municipal Civil Service Commission already posts notices of job openings on the City web site; add to that by uploading PDF versions of all job application forms and linking the appropriate forms to the various job opening notices. Just as there is no reason a Job seeker should have to go to City Hall to learn about available positions; the job seeker should be able to obtain a job application form through the mail, via fax, via email or on the City web site.