Status of Town’s work on Committee transparency

by beth on December 6, 2016

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

Back in April, voters approved an Article proposed by Town Clerk Jim Hegarty. The intent was to improve the Town’s tracking of meeting minutes. It was part of an effort to be more transparent and make it easier to comply with state laws.

Recently, I was surprised to see that most committees still don’t have minutes posted on the Town website. (You can see the list of Minutes vs Agendas right.)

I left a message with the Clerk’s office looking for minutes from a specific meeting. Since then, Jim Hegarty followed up with me to detail the status of the overall project.

It sounds like it may take a while before everything is up and available. But the good news is they are making progress.

As Hegarty explained last spring, committees had been responsible for keeping their own minutes. That meant when someone submitted a FOIA request*, the Town had to track down the information through members. That was tricky when some could be in a former member’s garage or even in possession of someone who left town.

And from what I’ve seen, committees sometimes fall way behind on approving minutes in the first place.

Article 35 passed at Annual Town Meeting required committees to approve their minutes and submit them to the Town Clerk’s office within 45 days. If followed, this would allow the Town to keep track of the information and post it publicly on the Town website. The Clerk’s office would notify committees that miss the deadline that they are out of compliance.

In pursuit of making the new policy work, the Clerk’s office has: 

  • run their test policy by 3 boards for their feedback and incorporated their changes into the process.
  • created a new email address ‘meetings’ to receive copies of all minutes and agendas.
  • identified the file naming system.
  • identified the storage location – no small feat in this tiny space we have available.
  • set up a process for receiving the minutes and documents used by the boards and committees.
  • set up a process for tracking meetings and compliance with the new policy.

This week, the Clerk’s office will:

  • notify all boards and committees of the new procedure for submission of minutes and agendas.
  • start uploading all the minutes we have received so far.
  • send a ‘report card’ to every board and committee listing what they have or have not submitted so far.

*FOIA = Public information request under the Freedom of Information Act

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