In a letter dated Sept. 1, 2011, Leonard Katzman, Chairman of the Portsmouth Democratic Town Committee, complained to the Rhode Island State Attorney General’s office that the Portsmouth Town Council violated the Open Meetings Act at its meeting on Feb. 28, 2011. The 20-page document included approved minutes of the meeting and a news article with reader comments from Internet media site, Portsmouth Patch.
An attorney, representing the Portsmouth Town Solicitor’s Office, dutifully filed a 5-page answer to the complaint. Mr. Katzman replied with a 7-page rebuttal.
Mr. Katzman’s complaint focused on the Council President’s, (Joseph Robicheau,) introduction of measures to deal with Portsmouth’s $22,000,000 unfunded pension liability. Although, the Portsmouth Ppension Plan was not identified on the agenda, its status was revealed in the 2009/2010 Audit presentation that night. Upon reflection, Mr. Katzman is likely correct that the agenda did not adequately specify the Pension Plan as an item for Council consideration. Unfortunately, neither party will learn the merits of his charge because Mr. Katzman, a practicing attorney, waited too long to submit his complaint.
The Portsmouth Democrat Party Chairman has not revealed his motivation to complain in September about a Council meeting conducted in the previous February. However, it takes little imagination to conclude. One can only speculate. Did that he decided to save the complaint until the last minute with intent to sully the Council majority at a time closer to his next election bid? The Attorney General’s office, in a letter dated November 25, 2011, found that “since you filed this complaint with only days remaining before the expiration of the statute of limitations, this Department declines to review your complaint”.
Mr. Katzman’s, impish filing caused undue State and Town legal expense and unnecessarily burdened the Town Clerk’s Office with reproduction of numerous documents and letters. Mr. Katzman would be well advised to direct his efforts to the betterment of the Town of Portsmouth rather to advancing his own political self-interest.
Joseph W. Robicheau
Portsmouth Town Council, President