The following is an excerpt from the Philadelphia Public School Notebook article The School Board nominating panel holds its first meeting. APPS protests blatant violations of the Sunshine Act.
A point of for the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) is transparency. APPS members sued the SRC in 2014 for violating the state’s Sunshine Act, which sets rules for the the conduct of government business, and won a settlement that reshaped the way the SRC dealt with issue of transparency—although APPS is quick to point out it’s a settlement they feel has not been consistently honored. For instance, the SRC often posts full descriptions of SRC resolutions after they have been voted on instead of in advance.
“The [nominating] panel is convened under the rules of the City Charter,” Haver said. “They are not an advisory panel. They are charged with selecting candidates for public office. They are city officials, and were addressed as such by members of the Mayor’s office.”
“As such, all of their meetings, including any committee meetings, must follow the provisions of the PA Sunshine Act,” she said. “Selection of candidates, and any deliberation about candidates, for this panel, is official action.”
The Mayor’s office disagrees with this interpretation of the Act.
“We appreciate the Alliance’s understandable desire to conduct as much public business as practicable in public,” Peterson said in a statement. “But the Alliance’s reading of the Sunshine Act is far from complete.”
She cited a section of the act that allows for deliberations involving political appointments to be conducted in closed-door executive sessions.
“A candid discussion about the strength and weaknesses of potentially hundreds of possible candidates cannot effectively be conducted in public,” she said. “It is also very likely that candidates will be more forthcoming about potential issues or conflicts of interest in private discussions.”
Haver suggested her organization is considering further action.
“APPS members have not fought against the lack of transparency by the SRC only to sit by and watch another board conduct its business in the same manner. We will be addressing our concerns to the panel and to the Mayor in the coming days.”