From: White, Donald (SEC)
Sent: Mon, Feb 14, 2011 10:30 am
Subject: Public Records Appeal - SPR11/009
I wanted to provide you with a brief update on the status of the public records appeal that you submitted to this office. I have been in communication with the counsel for the Town of Amherst to discuss the information redacted from the 8/30/10 Amherst Select Board Executive Session Meeting Minutes. At this time, town counsel has withheld that information and asserted Exemption (c) – The Privacy Exemption. Although the town has asserted this exemption, I am awaiting further information that will support the use of this exemption. I expect to speak further with town counsel next week, as they are out of the office this week.
Please feel free to let me know if you have any further questions, but I at least wanted to provide you with the information that I had on the appeal to date. Thank you.
Dear Mr White,
Thank you for the brief update. Nice when a government agency in charge of Open Meetings can be so open themselves. I hope when you make your final decision I can also receive the results via electronic mail.
As I'm sure you know, 'Exemption C The Privacy Exemption' is the #1 reason cited by municipal officials for turning down Public Documents requests. But public officials have a lesser expectation of privacy than the taxpayers who fund their salaries.
And the state allows the exception to be trumped when "there is a paramount public interest in disclosure." Indeed I strongly believe the sudden departure of Town Manager Larry Shaffer, taking with him four months of salary, rises to level of "paramount public interest"; and since he very soon thereafter reentered the job market in Michigan, I'm sure it was not a medical condition that fueled his hasty flight.
The redacted lone sentence I seek represents one half of the 120 minute Executive Session, as Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe covered the entire meeting with only two sentences. That too is questionable record keeping.
Maintaining public trust should be your paramount concern. When elected local officials hatch backroom deals in a private manner financed with public taxpayer money, it diminishes that sacred trust.
Again, thank you for considering this important matter.
Correction: The Executive Session was one hour-and-twenty-minutes (80 minutes) not two hours (120 minutes). Still, pretty hard to capture in only two sentences