Marion boards receive three open meeting law complaints

Nov 8, 2017

Boards in Marion received three open meeting law violation complaints last month.

Two complaints were from Ronald Beaty, a resident of West Barnstable, about the Board of Selectmen. The third complaint was from Dale Jones about the Energy Management Committee.

The complaints from Beaty were regarding the board’s use of acronyms on its agendas.

“He said it was not enough information to explain what the discussions of the Board of Selectmen would be,” Town Administrator Paul Dawson said.

Due to the three weeks between meetings, Dawson drafted a letter after speaking with the town’s attorney Jon Witten and sent it to Beaty. The letter explained that neither Dawson nor Witten believe that’s a violation of the open meeting law, but they could see where he was coming from.

“Perhaps he raises a point,” Dawson said. “Thirty years in government and I feel like I live in a world of acronyms, so it’s reasonable that someone wouldn’t get it.”

Dawson suggested that just for the sake of best practice, it would make sense to start spelling things out instead of using acronyms. After sending the letter to Beaty, Dawson received a second complaint from him.

“He objected to my response…saying it should have gone before the Board of Selectmen,” Dawson said. “Because we had three weeks separating our meetings, I thought it was best to respond, but like I said, no good deed goes unpunished.”

Dawson requested that the board responds to the complaint using the letter Dawson had already sent. The selectmen agreed to send a letter saying that the use of acronyms was not a violation, but wanted to omit the part about offering to spell things out in the future.

“The main point is it’s not a violation,” Selectman Norm Hills said.

The complaint from Jones was regarding the Aug. 28 Energy Management Committee meeting, when Jones alleges that the group went into executive session for a purpose not authorized under the open meeting law.

“I had town counsel review it, and we have asked the Energy Management Committee to hold a meeting,” Dawson said. “If necessarily, immediate action will be taken.”