Email sent by Select Board Chair violated Open Meeting Law, says attorney general

Royalston Town Hall

Royalston Town Hall FILE PHOTO BY GREG VINE

STAFF REPORT

Published: 06-10-2024 4:15 PM

Modified: 06-13-2024 3:38 PM


ROYALSTON — The Office of the Attorney General has found that the Select Board violated the Open Meeting Law when an email was sent among a quorum of the board outside a public meeting regarding a town employee’s resignation.

The board has acknowledged the violation of deliberating outside of public view and promised to “exercise greater vigilance in the future to ensure compliance,”according to a letter sent from the AG’s Office to the board on June 7.

The letter, signed by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Lindberg, Division of Open Government, and sent to current Select Board Chairman Rick Martin, detailed a complaint filed with the AG’s office on April 30 by Gary Winitzer. The complaint was originally filed with the board on Feb. 26, and the board responded to Winitzer in a letter dated March 6.

The complaint alleges that in July 2023, then-Board Chair Deb D’Amico sent an email to board members about negotiating the resignation of the town accountant and retaining an accounting firm to assume those functions for Royalston.

The AG’s Office reviewed the complaint, the board’s response and the complaint filed with the attorney general’s office.

According to the letter, Open Meeting Law provides that except when convened in executive session, “all meetings of a public body shall be open to the public.” A meeting is defined, in relevant part, as “a deliberation by a public body with respect to any matter within the body’s jurisdiction.”

D’Amico was found to have violated the Open Meeting Law when she communicated with the other board members, via email on July 27, 2023, outside of a posted meeting. In the email, D’Amico informed the other board members about business within its jurisdiction — the anticipated departure of the town accountant and steps she took to transition to an outside accounting firm.

The complainant also alleged that D’Amico violated the Open Meeting Law when she conferred independently with the accounting firm, though no violation was found to have occurred, “as the communication did not involve a quorum of the board and therefore did not constitute deliberation,” the letter stated.

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The AG’s Office has ordered “the board’s immediate and future compliance with the Open Meeting Law.”

“We now consider the complaint addressed by this determination to be resolved,” stated the letter. “This determination does  not address any other complaints that may be pending with our office or the board.”