This week the Duxbury Select Board asserted a right to eschew questions from journalists and instructed its select board assistant not to answer further questions from journalists.
The action would seem to be retaliatory in nature. The board was stung by recent stories in the Waterbury Record by Mike Verillo. The board’s response was to include a “media policy” item on the agenda for its February 10 meeting.
At the meeting, board members decided they would no longer respond to questions from the press but rather would refer journalists to audiotapes of meetings, minutes or the town clerk or town treasurer. While the Duxbury Select Board does keep good minutes, the quality of the audiotapes is less than ideal.
Then board members went around the table, each one of them explaining their position on answering questions from reporters. Board member Jerry McMahan stated that he wasn’t going to return phone calls from the press. Board member Kevin Garvin said his only comments would be uttered at meetings and would be on the audio recording. Board member Dan Schillhammer said he just didn’t have time and would refer questions back to the audio.
This week, The Valley Reporter reached out to select board assistant Jonathan DeLaBruere with a question and our reporter was told to call select board chair Bob Magee with further questions. It’s clear from statements made by Verillo at this week’s hearing that Magee does not return calls.
This is incomprehensible. Select board assistants and town administrators are a focal conduit for information from town government to the public via the press. To shut that conduit means that reporters won’t have access to the information needed to put town government’s actions in context. What’s the likely upshot of that? Either inaccurate reporting or an uninformed electorate.
For a group of elected officials to go around the meeting room table and announce their reasons for not wanting to answer questions is offensive. The public and the press have an absolute right to question elected officials about their actions and the work they do. Elected officials should welcome efforts by journalists to inform the public about board work rather than squash them.
Duxbury voters deserve better.