Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hiding In Plain Sight

Amherst Town Meeting Bus Tour under fire 

A "whistleblower" Amherst resident has filed an Open Meeting Law complaint with the Attorney General over the Town Meeting Bus Tour, where members go on site visits to places around town impacted by articles on the upcoming Town Meeting warrant.

Fair enough.  A good reporter should wear out a lot of shoes canvasing the scene of a story.  But in this case the complaint is not that a secret meeting took place -- after all the bus tour is widely promoted -- but that documents distributed on the tour were not placed into the public record.

And by the sounds of it, the documents in question were a tad fudged.  Maybe that's why they suddenly disappeared. 

The Town Meeting Coordinating Committee is taking up discussion of this later this afternoon as the Open Meeting Law requires the offending committee must be allowed to respond first.  If the complainant doesn't like their response he can then retake it up with the Attorney General.

Interestingly Town Meeting is exempt from many Open Meeting Law regulations -- conflict of interest being a major one.  The town meeting discussion list serve, privately owned by member Mary Streeter (who is also vice chair of the Town Meeting Coordinating Committee), is another good example.

It would be a gross violation of the OML if a majority of the Amherst Select Board engaged in discussions via email about any issue coming before them.

Yet the Amherst Town Meeting list serve was specifically created to do exactly that, and as of today has 208 members, W-A-Y beyond a quorum (128).


Anonymous said...

Who pays for the bus? And is it registered as a "School Bus" or as a "Bus" -- if not the latter, I don't believe it is legal to have anyone other than school children on it, other than in an emergency which this clearly isn't.

I'm not saying they are going to have an accident with one of these tours, but it'd be really messy if they did....

Anonymous said...

Verrrrrrry interesting. The Open Meeting Law is held in little regard by at least two of those committee members. Thanks to the citizen who pointed this out. (And thanks to you, Larry, for reprinting the documents.)