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Massachusetts ethics reform bill amends open meetings law

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  1. Freedom of Information
The Massachusetts Legislature passed an overhaul of the state’s ethics laws Thursday, which supporters lauded as much-needed reform. But the…

The Massachusetts Legislature passed an overhaul of the state’s ethics laws Thursday, which supporters lauded as much-needed reform.

But the bill, now before Gov. Deval Patrick, weakens further what were already weak penalties in the state’s open meetings law.

The Patriot-Ledger, in Quincy, editorialized against it Friday, saying the current law only contains a $1,000 fine against a government body for violating the open meeting law. Most states have steeper penalties.

“Rather than address this shortcoming, the bill coming out of conference committee would further weaken the law,” the newspaper said. “It would raise the standard of proof to require evidence of an ‘intentional’ violation before the $1,000 penalty could be imposed. The problem is that ‘intent’ is extremely difficult to prove in open meeting cases.”