BOS releases minutes on two closed meetings in response to AG ruling

by beth on April 21, 2015

Last month, the Attorney General’s office ruled that the Board of Selectmen had broken Open Meeting Laws. In response, the Town has posted minutes from two closed session meetings.

The AG decision related to a vote held in closed Executive Session around Town Manager Mark Purple’s performance and raise. The office ruled that a public vote wasn’t enough to fix the mistake. The discussion prior to the vote should have been made in public. Therefore, the meeting was not exempt to public posting of minutes.

There was an error in the AG ruling. It presumed that the meeting in question took place in their December 16th Executive Session. At a recent BOS meeting, Chair Bill Boland announced that the discussion had in fact taken place on November 18th.

In order to fully comply with the ruling, the board opted to post minutes from both sessions.

Boland explained that the December 16th session related to 84 Main Street. Since talks between the Town and owner have ceased, the board was able to share the notes without compromising negotiations.

On January 20th, the board publicly voted 3-2 to approve a 3.5% raise for Purple. No positions were explained.

The November 18th minutes now sheds some light on members’ decisions. They also reveal that Department of Public Works head Karen Galligan’s raise was impacted by her role in a controversial layoff last spring. 

The TA was pleased with his overall evaluation. He did receive low marks under “Communications” from Selectman Paul Cimino. Cimino clarified that it was for Purple’s role in the botched cemetery restructuring.

Under Purple’s contract, he was entitled to a 3% raise (equivalent to the Salary Administration Plan’s increase.) The board also had the option of paying higher.

Selectman Dan Kolenda argued for a larger merit-based raise. Pointing to the layoff controversy, Cimino opposed it:

Mr. Kolenda said that he would like to see something north of 3% to acknowledge the work Mr. Purple has done over the past year, and spoke about his experience with his company with merit based increases.  . .

Mr. Kolenda suggested an increase of 3.5%.  Mr. Cimino said that, although he is very pleased with Mr. Purple’s performance overall, he is not in favor of 3.5% because he feels Mr. Purple should face similar accountability in any salary adjustment for his role in the Cemetery reorganization, as the Board did for the DPW Superintendent.

Boland and Selectman John Rooney voted with Kolenda. Cimino and Phaneuf voted against it.

Here are the minutes from both meetings: November 18 and December 16.

The minutes are an overview, not transcript, so some discussion points on Purple’s evaluation aren’t clear. (e.g., After some discussion, Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf agreed to remove on “incomplete” comment under “Staffing/People Development”.)

Residents who want to see the public evaluation document can contact the Town House.

1 Al Hamilton April 21, 2015 at 12:41 PM

FYI:

“Public bodies are not required to disclose the minutes, notes, or other materials used in an executive session if the disclosure of these records may defeat the lawful purposes of the executive session. Once disclosure would no longer defeat the purposes of the executive session, however, minutes and other records from that executive session must be disclosed unless they fall within an exemption to the Public Records Law, G.L. c. 4, § 7, cl. 26, or the attorney-client privilege applies. Public bodies are also required to periodically review their executive session minutes to determine whether continued non-disclosure is warranted. These determinations must be included in the minutes of the body’s next meeting. ”

http://www.mass.gov/ago/government-resources/open-meeting-law/attorney-generals-open-meeting-law-guide.html#Records-Executive

2 Donna McDaniel April 21, 2015 at 7:41 PM

The article describes what was released from the second meeting as “an overview, not
a transcript.” Minutes are not a transcript either… assuming a transcript is a record of what was said by who was there–that’s too much for minutes but an overview seems too little, especially in this instance.
I do think the person who initiated this matter by noting that the board’s executive sessions were illegal should be mentioned. I realize it’s an election and maybe a hesitancy of mentioning one of the candidates.. however the incumbent
candidate was named so I think Desiree Aselbekian should be credited. I don’t recall any other time when someone stepped out to question the board’s procedure.

,

3 beth April 21, 2015 at 8:07 PM

I understand that all meeting minutes aren’t transcripts. However, if the discussion was held in a public meeting (as it should have been) residents who cared would have had the opportunity to hear the words themselves. That was lost here.

That said, I want to make clear that I’m not insinuating anything nefarious about the minutes. (I don’t believe anything that should have been shared was intentionally glossed over.)

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