Westmoreland County Community College shuts public out of meeting |

Westmoreland County Community College shuts public out of meeting

Ronald Eberhardt, vice president of administrative services for Westmoreland County Community College, closes the door to a meeting on the campus near Youngwood on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review

Westmoreland County Community College refused public access Wednesday to board of trustees committee meetings that previously were open to the public and the media.

The college denied the Tribune-Review entrance to a finance and facilities committee meeting in a boardroom on the main campus near Youngwood.

“The community college is wrong in this situation,” said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act, which governs public meetings, defines a board committee as an “agency” in its own right, Melewsky said. Because the law considers a committee an agency, committee meetings must be open to the public, she said.

“If you cut the public out of the committee meetings, you are, for all intents and purposes, cutting them out of the process where the policy is formulated,” Melewsky said.

WCCC solicitor Albert Gaudio said the meetings were closed because a quorum of the full board of trustees did not attend and the committee did not take official action.

But Melewsky said only a quorum of the committee needed to be present to make the meeting open.

“We've been experimenting with different committee arrangements,” said WCCC President Daniel Obara.

Obara said the board reviews its committee structure annually and will look at it again at a board retreat in November.

During the two-hour meeting, committee members reviewed proposals for construction managers and discussed a number of contract bids, including those for purchasing equipment, replacing the roof at Bushy Run education center and replacing the HVAC unit and controls in Commissioners Hall, according to an agenda provided in advance.

In contrast to the committee meeting, the full board meeting lasted about 45 minutes with agenda items accounting for less than 30 minutes.

The Trib has covered several committee meetings in the past, which take place before the monthly trustees meeting, but a reporter and photographer were kept outside the closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.