Selectboard Minutes, 12.08.2022

Thursday, 08 December 2022, 9:00 a.m., 236 School Road, Guilford, VT


SELECTBOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Zon Eastes, Chair, Michael Becker, Rusty Marine (via Zoom), Verandah Porche, Richard Wizansky

OFFICIALS/ STAFF PRESENT:  Sheila Morse (Asst. Town Administrator)

PRESENT in person: Steve Lembke, Gordon Little, Marty Ramsburg, Frank Larkin, Nancy Detra, Deborah and David Albright

PRESENT via Zoom: Chad Kaminski, David Eastman, Jim Haine, Connie Burton, Barry Aleshnik, Bob Audette, Cathi Wilken, Erika Elder, Christina Belogour, Anne Montgomery, Jason Herron, Mary Wallace Collins, Michael Hanish, Pat Haine, Linda Hay, Cynthia Clark, Rick Zamore, Virginia F,  Joslyn McIntyre, Rick Zamore, Anna Klein, Tammy Sargent

  1. Call to Order 9:02
  1. Rules of Procedure were read by Rusty; Zon announced that comments would be restricted to 3 minutes per person, and that there would be no response.
  1. New Business
    1. Jason Herron: Open Meeting Law Violation #8
      1. Allegation #8:  On November 30, 2022, Jason Herron alleged that Assistant Town Administrator Sheila Morse violated the Open Meeting Law by seeking advice from the Town Attorney outside of a duly warned meeting.  Although Mr. Herron previously alleged the same violation, and the Selectboard denied his allegation, he now additionally claims Ms. Morse violated 1 V.S.A. § 312(g) by seeking advice from the Town Attorney outside a duly warned meeting.  In particular, he claims Ms. Morse violated the portion of 1 V.S.A. § 312(g) which states, “[r]outine, day-to-day administrative matters that do not require action by the public body may be conducted outside a duly warned meeting, provided that no money is appropriated, expended, or encumbered.”   While Mr. Herron lists multiple “Specific Violations”, they appear to center on a specific claim that, “[t]here has been no open meeting discussion authorizing the assistant town administrator to spend taxpayer funds contacting the Town’s law firm for any reason.”  Mr. Herron claims that Ms. Morse did not have authority to seek legal advice on behalf of the Town in her position as Assistant Town Administrator.
      2. Response:  Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(b)(2), the Selectboard is required to respond publicly within ten calendar days to a written notice of an alleged Open Meeting Law violation.
        1. Mr. Herron already put forward this allegation on October 5, 2022, and the Town denied the allegation.  While Mr. Herron has added claims relative to 1 V.S.A. § 312(g), the additional claims do not alter the Selectboard’s decision.  Town Administrator Sheila Morse did not violate the Open Meeting Law in contacting the Town Attorney for advice.  Ms. Morse is not subject to the Open Meeting Law, as she is not a member of the “public body” as defined in 1 V.S.A. § 310(4).  
        2. We also note that Mr. Herron claims Ms. Morse redacts the Town’s legal bills.   This is not the case.  Monaghan Safar Ducham PLLC provides legal bills to the Town in a redacted format.  If the Selectboard were to provide unredacted versions to the public, it would first need to waive the attorney-client privilege for these legal bills.  The Town has not waived this privilege.  
        3. We previously denied Mr. Herron’s October 5, 2022 allegation and will not accept additional arguments from Mr. Herron as to whether Sheila Morse violated the Open Meeting Law by contacting the Town Attorney relative to Mr. Herron’s questions regarding the Town’s legal bills.  
        4. Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314(c), a person aggrieved by a denial of an Open Meeting Law violation may bring an action in the Civil Division of the Vermont Superior Court.  
      3. Zon stated that the Selectboard will take no action because there’s nothing new to be acted on.
      4. Discussion
        1. Two participants raised concern about the Selectboard not being open about their actions. An accusation was made that the first Budget Workshop meeting Zoom video was edited.
        2. Others commented that the Selectboard does its best to adhere to Open Meeting Law requirements and that, while members may make mistakes, there is no intent to defraud the town.
        3. Some comments related to how to stop these accusations going forward, because it appears that there is no acceptable resolution to the party bringing them forward.
        4. Other comments reminded participants that the SB members are neighbors, good people, volunteers, and may make mistakes occasionally, but that we are a community. No one wants strife or contention. The community appreciates the SB. It would be nice to know, if the SB says, perhaps we made mistakes and we’re all learning, that would suffice. We have worked collaboratively in the past, but wishing doesn’t make it so now. That seems to be in our past. So it’s important that the SB acknowledge that OML is critical. Look at each allegation to assess if there’s a level of truth or substance, acknowledge a mistake, and commit to acting on that going forward. There has never been an intent on the part of this or past Selectboards to execute a decision that is harmful.
  1. Adjournment
    1. ACTION: Michael moved and Richard seconded that the meeting be adjourned. All were in favor. None were opposed. No one abstained. Motion carried. The meeting adjourned at 9:35 a.m.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held on Monday, 12.12.22 at 6:30 p.m.

Zon Eastes, Chair _____________________________________

Michael Becker _____________________________________

Rusty Marine _____________________________________

Verandah Porche _____________________________________

Richard Wizansky ____________________________________

Click here to download a pdf file – Selectboard Minutes 12.08.22