The York city commission meeting that wasn’t

There was plenty of good discussion on Monday night at the York City Human Relations Commission meeting– mostly about how the commission members didn’t show up.

Here’s a shot of the crowd at Monday night’s HRC meeting at city hall, because, well, a shot of the council table would have shown only empty seats.

While the folks in the audience  waiting for a non-meeting were initially plenty upset, eventually, for most of them the whole thing became rather comical. They came downtown for a meeting, and sat, and waited, and 90 minutes later filed out again after giving up on the process.

But there was an obvious question about the HRC board’s move.

Can they do that?

According to Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, they can.

But as open government goes, well,  it’s kind of not cool.

Melewsky said the state’s Sunshine Act doesn’t specifically address procedure for canceled meetings. It does say that if a meeting is going to be rescheduled, the board has to give 24 hours notice, and re-advertise.

Beyond that, she said, the law does not apply in this case.

Still, Melewsky said that in her opinion, the board should have tried harder to let the public know what was going on. Or what wasn’t going on.

“It’s problematic from a public access standpoint,” she said of the board’s no-show.

And it could have been avoided by a simple note on the door.

“It’s reasonable to conclude the committee had some kind of notice there would be no meeting,” she said. “That same notice should have been passed along to the public.”

The onus shouldn’t be on interested citizens, Melewsky said.

“What’s clear to me here is that it’s incumbent upon the agency to let the public know that the meeting is canceled,” she said.

Have you followed the HRC troubles in recent months? Where does the problem lie?

About Tim Stonesifer

Tim Stonesifer is the York city reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Email him at tstonesifer@ydr.com, call 771-2032 or follow him on Twitter @timstonesifer.
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