Dalton Select Board files response to selectman's Open Meeting Law complaint
DALTON -- The Select Board has written the Attorney General's office stating it didn't violate the Open Meeting Law at its Jan. 14 meeting as one of its members contends.
Select Board member Stuart Sargent Jr. filed a complaint on Jan. 10, four days before the meeting took place, with the Attorney General's office that rules were broken. The office is in charge of investigating and policing the state's Open Meeting Law.
"It's kind of an interesting scenario when you can sign and date a complaint of an Open Meeting Law violation four days before the meeting," said the board's chairman, John Boyle.
Sargent said he primarily filed the complaint on Jan. 10, the day the meeting agenda was posted, because it was marked as "Preliminary Draft." In addition, none of Sargent's agenda items made it onto the agenda, he said.
Sargent abstained from every vote taken at the Jan. 14 meeting.
"In my opinion, I [filed] a formal complaint because I didn't know how to get the board members in action," Sargent told his colleagues at Monday's Select Board meeting.
The Dalton Select Board voted Monday to respond to Sargent's complaint with a letter to the Attorney General's office and sent it on Tuesday. The board had 14 business days to respond.
Select Board members weren't happy that Sargent filed the complaint.
Mary Cherry, the vice chairwoman, told Sargent that his action was "a scurrilous attack," and that it was "meritless," "warrantless" and "faceless."
She said it's too late to just simply "hash out" the issue among the board members.
"That was never going to happen once you filed an official complaint with the Attorney General," Cherry told Sargent at the meeting. "You called into question the integrity of this board."
Cherry also read a public statement by Select Board Member William Chabot, who was absent from Monday's meeting.
According to Sargent's complaint filed to the Attorney General, "the FINAL agenda should be sent to the board members by 7 p.m. the Thursday prior to the next scheduled Select Board meeting" and Boyle should respond to his suggestions, whether it be pro or con.
Cherry said that she learned at an Open Meeting Law forum in Boston last weekend that there's no steadfast guideline on what the title of the meeting notice needs to be.
"It just hast to be legible, [an] easy-to-understand format and contain the date, time and place of such a meeting, and a list of topics that the chair reasonably anticipates," Cherry said.
The Dalton Town Hall closes for the weekend at the end of Thursday. The Open Meeting Law states that the notice of a public meeting must posted 48 hours in advance, not including the weekend. The Jan. 14 meeting is time-stamped Jan. 10, at 4:11 p.m., a full four days ahead of time.
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