BOS changes: New voices and increasing transparency

Last night, the Board of Selectmen met for the first time since voters replaced incumbent Bill Boland with Brian Shea. The board elected new officers, responded to transparency questions, and voted to implement changes in communications.

New Voices
Selectman John Rooney was unanimously voted in as the new Chair. Selectman Paul Cimino was elected to Vice Chair unopposed. For that second position, Selectman Dan Kolenda initially recommended Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf. Phaneuf declined, encouraging instead “bringing up” Cimino as a newer voice on the board.

Shea asked to resign from his spot on the Main Street Design Working Group. Rooney tried to persuade Shea to stay on. Shea responded that he will still attend meetings. But since he votes on matters at a higher level, he preferred to allow another resident the chance to “have a voice”.

Shea’s position filled the BOS’ requirement that the board include a member of the Advisory Committee. They will be contacted to identify a replacement.

Increasing transparency and a change in communications
Recent candidate for selectwoman, Desiree Aselbekian, easily convinced the board to make more of their public records available online.

Aselbekian asked why approved executive session minutes that are no longer sensitive don’t get posted. She also pointed out that the board’s publicly posted meeting packets only include a portion of their materials.

Cimino told the board that he’s tired of the topic. He said they should be erring on the side of disclosure. 

Town Administrator Mark Purple explained that when executive session minutes are approved, that doesn’t make them public. The board also has to vote that they are no longer sensitive and can be released. Purple said it was something mentioned at a past retreat, that they need to look a the past minutes to vote on releasing them. The board agreed to do that soon. Rooney asked to have the 2015 meetings voted on in June.

Phaneuf asked the board to agree to a change going forward. When the board approves Executive Session minutes they will also vote to release, unless they opt to retain them.

Assistant Town Manager Vanessa Hale explained the incomplete meeting packets. Hale said that the top portion of the agenda’s materials are included. The bottom portion beginning with the Consent Agenda aren’t.

Hale explained that the consent agenda often contains many documents with information that would need redacting. The board had decided that it was too time consuming for personnel. (Documents like liquor licenses can contain social security numbers and other personal information.)

Going forward, the board asked to post any information that doesn’t include sensitive information.

Later in the meeting, Rooney asked the board to adopt town email addresses for town communications.

Kolenda was resistent to the change. He questioned the idea of residents emailing selectmen individually. He believed they needed to discuss a policy about copying other selectmen on communications.

Rooney and Cimino argued that the email communications are already happening. But now, they are using their personal accounts.

Cimino explained that the emails back and forth from the Town Administrator to all selectmen use their personal emails. He believed those should be in a town account.

Rooney said that he does receive emails, but they are to his personal account. He believed that when selectman make inquiries to department heads they should be through a town account. In the end, the board supported the change.

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