PCC Bars Citizen Journalist from Meeting
The Portsmouth Concerned Citizens (PCC), a group that trumpets openness and transparency, refused entry to their advertised meeting to your reporter, a very concerned citizen of Portsmouth. Larry and another guy were standing at the door to the Anthony House, clipboard in hand.
"Is this meeting open to the public, or do I have to join to get in?"
"You have to join," said PCC President Larry Fitzmorris.
"Okay," I said, and pulled out my completed membership form and check for $20.
"But you can't join tonight. We've already made up the list." He started fumbling with his wallet. "You have to send me your application, and then the members have to vote on you."
Hm. "Gee. Have you filed by-laws with the State? Because I looked, and I couldn't find anything."
"I wouldn't say we haven't filed anything with the State," said Larry.
"But you haven't filed by-laws?"
"No." He gave me his card.
Now this is interesting on a couple of levels. I really wonder what's in those by-laws. Since the PCC is a nonprofit corporation, they have to file them with the State eventually. In the meantime, all their newsletters say about membership is a statement of some goals, and then "if you are of the same mind, become a PCC member today!" Since the last goal is "superior public schools," I figured, being like-minded, I could join.
But membership only by secret vote? Isn't this antithetical to the PCC's stated position that "While very few people like to be criticized, the tendency to take hard decisions into the back room is counter to all our interests?"
Now I can understand this in a country club, or an exclusive gated community. Sure, you want to have membership only by the consent of those already "in the club." You wouldn't want any diversity of opinion, or have any sunlight in those dark back rooms.
Hm. Dark back rooms in the Anthony House, too, a residential facility run by the Church Community Housing Corporation that I believe administers Federal housing subsidies. Might be worth looking into...
So while I'm still sending Larry my check, I'm not very hopeful. And if there are any attorneys out there who have a sense of RI corporate law, any off-the-record advice would be welcome. I'm sure they are within their rights as an organization, but by gum, I want to be sure that they're crossing their gosh-darned t's and dotting their blessed i's, in terms of what they need to be filing.
But more than the letter of the law, these folks, if anyone, should be ashamed at not hewing to the spirit of their own propaganda. From their most recent newsletter: "What we do not know, we are unable to challenge. Given the opportunity, the ethically challenged will cho[o]se the closet for decisions that hazard the public good."