The meeting of a newly formed group in Titusville, The Titusville Planning and Partnership Meeting, to coordinate the completion of multiple public works projects this spring and summer is set for Thursday evening in the Titusville City Hall building at an unspecified time. Members of the public, members of the Chamber of Commerce and the media are not welcome to attend.
The information came out at the end of Tuesday's City Council meeting when Mayor Esther Smith asked those members of city council who will be attending the meeting to report back to city council as a whole on the meeting's proceedings.
City Council members responded negatively to an editorial published in the Titusville Herald Tuesday morning and appearing on the newspaper's Facebook page late Monday night. At the end of the editorial it was stated "The Herald feels that it is in the community's best interest that these meetings be opened to the public"
This after the paper consulted with a media attorney and citing the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law Act 65.
Stated on the web page of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records is the following: "The Pennsylvania sunshine Act 65...requires agencies to deliberate and take official action on agency business in an open public meeting. It requires that meetings have prior notice, and that the public can attend, participate and make comment before an agency takes that official action"
The editorial was condemned by councilman Bill Adelman as "90 percent false" and "fake news". Councilman Don Frazier said he "was disappointed" by the content of the editorial. City Manager Larry Manross said after the meeting he would "not normally have an issue with the media attending, but now I do." He declined an on camera statement, as did Mayor Esther Smith and other council members. Manross did consent to appear on the Morning Drill program a future date to be determined.
Also after the meeting, Manross explained there are multiple public works projects set for this spring and summer, many going on in close proximity to one another. The TPPM is only coordinating the work to be carried out by multiple entities to minimize public inconvenience and to promote public safety he says.
However, the first meeting of the TPPM earlier this month or in late February included four of five city council members and two of three Crawford County Commissioners, a quorum in each case, discussing coordination of publicly funded projects.
Exceptions to the Sunshine law included Executive meetings, personnel matters, labor negotiations, and legal matters. The case of Smith v. Twp of Richmond held in that case "The supervisors' four closed door gatherings did not violate the sunshine act because they were held for informational purposes only and did not involve deliberations.." Mayor Esther Smith said TPPM was not deliberating and not deciding. In the Smith case it was ruled a closed gathering may be held "soley for the purpose of collecting information or educating agency members about an issue."
Manross also disputed the claim of Chamber Executive Director Emily Altomare that the Chamber Transportation committee meetings resolved at least two local traffic issues. In the Herald piece, Manross is reported saying the transportation Committee meeting dissolved into a complaint session accomplishing little.