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Boswell council president seeks to limit borough’s interaction with reporters

September 12, 2018

Boswell Borough Council President Mary Ann DeLuca has instructed her fellow council members not to speak with the media about borough business.

During an Aug. 13 borough council meeting, DeLuca told the council that only she and the borough secretary can give information about borough activities to media outlets, according to borough meeting minutes.

“Nothing should be given to the news if someone is not here to get information before the minutes are approved at next month’s meeting,” the meeting agenda for Aug. 13 states.

When questioned after a council meeting Monday, DeLuca said, “It’s better if there’s a release from one or two people, instead of five.” She added the order is to make sure accurate information is given to the media.

“It’s too many people talking and not knowing what’s going on,” she said. “So I said at a meeting that from now on anything about the meetings or the town would go through Connie (the borough secretary) or myself.”

DeLuca said the council decided it was better system to deal with the media, and not because of inaccurate information being printed by the press.

Several council members would not discuss the matter on the record with a Daily American reporter, but they said they are not happy with the order. They confirmed that DeLuca made the decision after receiving a call about a newspaper article on July 14 regarding the cleanup of a building that collapsed along Morris Avenue.

The borough received a $19,066 bill from Berkey Excavating for demolition and a $29,506 bill from Pro Disposal for removal of debris from the former hardware store and bank. The blighted building fell down in May after months of deterioration.

DeLuca said she was unsure if a vote took place during the Aug. 13 meeting. The minutes do not show that a vote was taken.

Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said DeLuca could not set such a policy without a vote from council members.

“Even if they did vote, I don’t know if they could limit elected officials’ speech in this manner,” she said. “We’re talking about individual elected officials. They don’t answer to each other; they answer to the voters.”

Melewsky added there might also be constitutional concerns with such a policy or order being enacted.

A Daily American reporter called borough secretary Connie Knopsnyder for a copy of the Aug. 13 meeting agenda only to be told he needed to contact DeLuca before one could be sent.

Several calls to DeLuca on Aug. 22 and Aug. 23 were not returned. The Daily American submitted a Right-to-Know request for the documents, which can be found on the newspaper’s website at www.dailyamerican.com.

Melewsky said agendas and minutes should be readily available to anyone who is interested, regardless of whether that person is a resident or reporter.

“Most agencies that have good transparency practices make those records available without the need of a formal request,” she said.

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