Peru Select Board again found in violation of Open Meeting Law


PERU -- For the third time since April, the Peru Select Board has been cited for violating state Open Meeting Law, according to a ruling released last week by the state attorney general.

Between mid-July and early August 2013, the board deliberated before scheduled meetings, wrote inaccurate meeting postings and inaccurate and insufficient meeting minutes and delayed its response to OML complaints beyond the allotted time period, the AG's office found.

Two other board violations of the Open Meeting Law, on Sept. 9 and Nov. 25, warranted sanction on similar grounds.

In the most recent ruling, Assistant Attorney General Hanne Rush cited the board's response to a resident's Open Meeting Law complaints.

"Noting that Peru is a small town, the board stated the Open Meeting Law applies to everyone, but is administered differently depending upon the needs and resources of the community," he said, paraphrasing from a recording of a meeting during the period in question.

He also noticed many inaccuracies in the minutes concerning the length of meetings and the matters discussed, and a July 15 meeting wrongly posted for July 8 went uncorrected.

The AG ordered future compliance with the law, starting immediately, "review by the board of the Attorney General's Open Meeting Law Training Videos" inside 30 days, and revision of the July 15, July 22, July 29 and Aug. 5 meeting minutes.

Public interest in Peru's Select Board meetings surged last summer and fall amid a now-defunct proposal by Lightship Energy to construct a wind farm in the community. Lightship pulled its turbine proposal last month, citing anticipated changes in state regulations.

But during a series of contentious meetings about the proposal, many residents who sought more information about Lightship's intentions felt they were purposely left in the dark, prompting accusations against town officials of secrecy and backdoor dealings.

Resident Joseph Kaminski, who filed the complaints upheld in Rush's response, said he began attending board meetings after learning of Lightship's plans.

Kaminski said he soon noticed discrepancies between recorded meeting minutes and what went on for public consumption.

"I told [the board], ‘I was here and didn't see any of this take place,' " Kaminski said. "They said, ‘We took care of that before you got here.' "

Rush also found that multiple meeting minutes contained details not heard in the recordings of the meetings in question.

Kaminski praised the ruling, although he took issue with its assertion that the board has demonstrated "improved compliance with the Open Meeting Law."

"The information highway in Peru is nothing more than a dirt road," he said, "and [the board] wants to keep things that way."

To reach Phil Demers:
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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