4.30.2007

Objection, your honor

I had intended to blog about an incident that occured last December when I was presenting a project update to a community group at the Cape. I did not get around to it but I saw recently that the minutes from the meeting are available on-line. In lieu of my usual rambling blog, here's the script and stage directions, straight from the minutes. I just added an Intro and a couple of thoughts :-)

The IART is the Impact Area Review Team, a group consisting of army, agency and community representatives who review the environmental program at the Mass. Military Reservation. The cast of characters is as follows:
Walsh-Rogalski - USEPA lawyer on the Review Team
Mr. McDonaugh - Army Lawyer not on the Review Team
Mr. Cambareri, Mr. Mullenix and Mr. Lanteri - Concerned Citizen on the Review Team
Mr. Gangopadhyay - Your Humble Narrator
Act I, Scene I

Mr. Walsh-Rogalski stated that one of the conclusions being drawn seems to be that the disposal pits, rather than other areas, tend to be the source of contamination. Mr. Gangopadhyay replied that that’s correct. He also noted, however, that not all of the scattered items found throughout the area were inert – some were MEC items, but didn’t show any signs of leakage and therefore don’t seem to be causing contamination that could affect groundwater.

Mr. Walsh-Rogalski asked again if it’s correct that most of the munitions found in the disposal pit were inert. Mr. Gangopadhyay replied, "A lot of them, yes." Mr. Walsh-Rogalski then asked, "Nonetheless, you found these disposal pits to be a major source of contamination?" Mr. Gangopadhyay started to respond but was twice interrupted by Mr. Walsh-Rogalski asking him to answer the question. Mr. McDonagh, who was in the audience, asked Mr. Walsh-Rogalski to allow Mr. Gangopadhyay to answer.

(All I remember is Walsh-Rogalski screaming "ANSWER THE QUESTION!" over and over, while McDonagh kept shouting "LET HIM ANSWER !!".)

Act I, Scene II
Mr. Walsh-Rogalski noted that his point is that if the majority of the munitions found were in burial pits, and most of them were inert, it seems to make sense that very few of the found munitions would be cracked/leaking. Mr. Gangopadhyay said that that’s true. Mr. Walsh-Rogalski then said that if another thousand munitions that were fired on the range were found, "the proportion of munitions that were cracked or leaking would be much higher than what you’re presenting here, in all likelihood." Mr. Gangopadhyay replied, "Could be, yes."

Mr. Mullennix commented that it seems to him that Mr. Walsh-Rogalski was "leading the witness, and this isn’t a court of law," and he would prefer to see the presentation move along without that happening. Mr. Walsh-Rogalski said that he apologizes if his line of questioning was too aggressive, and added that it’s difficult to make points without asking questions.
(McDonagh kept shouting from the audience "HE's LEADING THE WITNESS". )

Mr. Gangopadhyay then continued with his presentation....

Act 2
... Mr. Cambareri (said he..) thinks that a law-like atmosphere is okay, but finds that "locker room catcalls from the audience" denigrate the formality of the IART...
Mr. McDonagh then closed by saying that as long as those speaking on behalf of the IAGWSP continue to be cross-examined, he will continue to speak up from the audience unless he’s told by "somebody higher up than anybody" at the meeting to stop doing so.
Mr. Cambareri said that he has "some trouble" with Mr. McDonagh’s response to his comments.

Mr. Lantery noted that many individuals at the meeting are paid to be there, but he is a volunteer, who participates in order to be informed. He said that he senses "hostility and aggression underlying the presentations, doesn’t appreciate it, and will stop coming to IART meetings if it continues. Mr. Lantery added that he doesn’t come to IART meeting to "get upset" and he recommended that everyone at the table leave their "animosity and hostilities at the door" if they want volunteer participation to continue.

The last bit struck a sober note in the midst of the chaos that goes by the label of community participation in environmental projcts. Thus, the fun ended for the night.

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