Merski bill would shed light on local board decision-making

Would mandate online publication of board members’ names, contact information

HARRISBURG, Feb. 25 – Local government boards would have more of a public face and greater accountability under a new bill introduced by state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie. 

Merski said H.B. 647 – which would require municipal authorities, boards and other local government bodies to maintain public websites listing board members’ names and other information – would bring greater transparency to the decision-making process. 

“Citizens have the right to know more about the local authorities whose decisions impact their lives and spend their tax dollars,” Merski said. “That’s more important than ever today, as the pandemic has strained resources. But it can’t happen when the decision-making process takes place behind closed doors, where special interests can poison the process. Open meetings laws can sometimes provide access, but the laws can be complicated to use, and some meetings remain closed. 

“Requiring boards and other local decision-making authorities to publish members’ names and contact information would provide citizens a simple way to reach members with questions or concerns and help ensure critical decision-making does not slip under the radar. By putting a public face to these boards, we let in the sunlight, and with it, greater accountability to taxpayers.”

Merski said that under his bill, all political subdivision and municipal authorities would be required to maintain a publicly accessible website that includes the following:

  • The name of each board member. 
  • The length and expiration date of the term to which the board member was appointed. 
  • An email address which may be used to contact each board member listed on the publicly accessible website of the authority or board. 
  • The name and office of the individual who appointed the board member or the name of the municipality that appointed each board member. 
  • The publicly accessible website of the government entity that created the board.