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A plane takes off from Harriman-and-West Airport in North Adams. An Open Meetings Law complaint was filed recently with the state about the North Adams Airport Commission.

NORTH ADAMS — In September 2020, Gerrit Blauvelt asked for years worth of Airport Commission meeting minutes, spanning periods from 1960 to 2004.

He is still waiting on years of minutes, he says in an Open Meeting Law complaint filed in late December.

After a previous complaint from Blauvelt, the state said last year that the missing minutes violated Open Meeting Law, and it asked the commission to recreate as many minutes as it can. Some documents have been found, and the commission said it’s working on recreating others.

The Airport Commission voted in a brief special meeting Tuesday evening to approve an official response to Blauvelt’s December complaint, saying that minutes are being re-created and will be made available.

In response to his original minutes request, the city told Blauvelt at least a decade worth of minutes, including those from 1989 through 1990 and 1995 through 2004, were missing.

All meetings of public bodies must be documented. “We find that the Commission failed to meet this requirement for numerous meetings by not creating or maintaining minutes of its meetings for a period of approximately 35 years and thus violated the Open Meeting Law,” Assistant Attorney General KerryAnne Kilcoyne wrote in a July letter to the city in response to a previous complaint Blauvelt filed.

“We order the Commission to create minutes for as many meetings as it deems possible to the best of its ability, through whatever means are available, including the notes and recollections of the attendees,” the letter says.

The commission takes the state’s findings seriously, a letter from the commission to Kilcoyne in late October reads, and after it received Kilcoyne’s letter, commission members started working with city employees to look for missing minutes. Staff found a “substantial number of the missing minutes within the files of City Hall,” the letter says, adding that former airport managers were contacted for their help.

Minutes from April 1, 1982 to August 21, 2001 could not be found as of late October, according to the commission’s letter. The commission has been looking at newspaper articles, figuring out who was on the commission when, and requesting information from engineering firms who presented at meetings. “All of this data has been compiled to create minutes to the best of the Commission’s ability for those meetings for which original minutes cannot be located,” the commission’s letter reads.

At a meeting in October, Airport Commission member Marc Morandi said a city staff person “had found a good amount of the missing minutes, and that he researched newspapers and worked with the City Clerk’s Office to re-create 233 sets of missing minutes,” meeting minutes read.

But, Blauvelt wrote in his recent December complaint that he asked for years of the minutes in early December and had not received them.

“The Commission is confused by your current complaint’s repeated request for minutes already covered by a previous Open Meeting Law complaint,” the commission’s official response, approved Tuesday, reads. The commission is complying with the state’s request by working to re-create minutes, and minutes Blauvelt asked for in a previous request “will be made available as per the resolution of that request and your subsequent appeal to the Massachusetts Attorney General.”

Angie Ellison, the city administrator who also responds to public records requests, said at Tuesday’s meeting that Blauvelt’s December request “seems to be redundant ... This request seems to be asking the same thing the finding asked us to re-create.”

Blauvelt also said in his recent complaint that the commission “should better explain when and where missing meeting minutes were located.”

In explaining why the minutes were missing, Ellison said in July that “the short answer is bad record-keeping.” Ellison, who is also interim airport manager until a permanent manger is found, could not be reached for comment during the day Tuesday.

Kilcoyne writes in her July letter to the city that in the fall of 2020, then city Public Records Access Officer Jessica Lincourt told the Blauvelt that “some past airport commission secretaries chose to record the minutes, while others did not. Therefore, the records of the minutes are sporadic at best.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6272.

Reporter

Greta Jochem, a Report for America Corps member, joined the Eagle in 2021. Previously, she was a reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She is also a member of the investigations team.