MWDN: Southborough Planning Board may have violated Open Meeting Law

According to a report in yesterday’s Metrowest Daily News, a quorum of the Southborough Planning Board held a 20-minute private discussion prior to convening their meeting on Monday night, while an audience of residents sat and waited. One audience member called it “strange and uncomfortable,” and now a noted media attorney says the private discussion was probably a violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law.

Chairman Don Morris said the committee was discussing procedure and was within its bounds, but Robert Ambrogi, a media attorney and executive director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, told the MWDN he believes the private discussion was not in accordance with the law.

Reports the MWDN in a follow-up article today:

“We wanted to make sure our procedure was efficient and in the best interest of the revisions,” (Morris) said. Member Dana Cunningham then suggested the board create a subcommittee to deal with the open space bylaw topic, and members created the committee after brief deliberation.

After the meeting, member Paul Cimino told The Daily News that although the committee had discussed the procedure of creating a subcommittee during the private talk, the nature of the talk was not substantive.

Abmbrogi said any discussion of creating such a committee should have been made in open session.

“That’s starting to get into the substance of that agenda item, and that’s the kind of thing that needs to comply with Open Meeting Law,” he said.

I wasn’t at the meeting, so I can’t give you a first-hand account, but you can read more from MWDN reporter Brad Petrishen who was there in this article published today in the paper.

What do you think? No harm no foul? Or did the Planning Board overstep its bounds? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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