Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Middletown Senior Center- Shhh!

I check agendas & minutes all the time for various public entites- local and state. I have an enquiring mind & want to know what's the skinny. It's easy enough to do nowadays since public records & filings on the Sec. of St. website are not just suggested, they're the law! Recently I've
focused on the Middletown Senior Center Board of Directors for a number of reasons- the main one being that I found so little info on their filing site verus, say, the Middletown Public Library Board of Trustees. I could have asked the Director directly; however, in the past I've had absolutely no response going that route and I have a firm rule against unnecessary head-banging.

Why are these filings important? Well, one reason is that they are required by the State and constitute legal documents (since July, 2004). Another is that the town Charter requires this Board & Director: "to develop and administer all Senior Citizens' Center programs, prepare necessary budgets for Center operations and initiate broad based programs to serve the senior community." There are nine local members of this Board. They are all seniors, although, there is no reason they must be.

Since the State heavily contributes to this program, it also sets some requiments; e.g., monthly membership meetings, reports, etc. This local group also is ultimately responsible along with its Director (whom I would suppose that it oversees) for a yearly budget which is approved by the town. Budget process- NOW.

Got it? So imagine my surprise when in travelling to the State filing's site, I located 25 filings. 25 since 2004. This begs the question- who's running the center & what-the-heck are they doing? Filings are required for each meeting- an agenda 48 hrs. in advanced & posted in two accepted public places and then minutes 35 days afterwards. I then actually read them- all of them- the last first. At the end of the Jan. 21, 2009 meeting (their only filing for the year), there was this sentence: "Also no discussion of our meetings to anyone outside the group."

What? Isn't this the purpose for having sunshine laws & open meetings? Everything is up for discussion because it is, after all, the people's business. I then started to actually explore the documents. It's taken me hours due to all the errors- misfiling dates, duplicates, incomplete filings, etc.

Following posts will take us through all the public docs & translate what it means. Or doesn't mean. While it is up to the Board Secretary to make these filings correctly, the ultimate responsibility for actually making them climbs the ladder- Director, Town Admin., Council. I could have filed a complaint with the Sec. of State, even, perhaps, the Attorney General. Instead, I have chosen (so far) to speak with the Town Admin, a few Council members, and the former Senior Center Director.

More to follow. This is Part One. So many filings required, so few done. BTW, there is an opportunity for all Senior Centers to become nationally accredited:

http://www.ncoa.org/userfiles/file/1_3_NAC_Nationally_Accredited_Senior_Centers_12609.pdf

15 centers in R.I. are nationally accredited. Ours is not. 25 filings in 5 years. A meeting every month. So do the math but SHHHH!
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