Complaint filed against Brandon board on Open Meeting Law
By LUCIA SUAREZ
STAFF WRITER | June 15,2013
BRANDON — A complaint alleging that the Brandon Select Board violated the state’s Open Meeting Law was filed this month with the Vermont attorney general’s office.
Brandon resident and former selectman Brian Fillioe sent an email complaint after a board meeting in May where he believed there were “flagrant violations” to the Open Meeting Law.
“There are two important things (town officials) need to learn: Robert’s Rules of Order and the Open Meeting Law,” Fillioe said in an interview Thursday. “They must warn an agenda in a specific time and place, and interested parties can get an agenda.”
He said this did not happen when board members, at their May 28 meeting, decided to add an agenda item that was not properly warned and then took action on it.
In his complaint, Fillioe wrote: “Others who have seen the posted agenda which did not show the added budget item were also prevented from learning about this matter and speaking to this matter.”
He added in an interview, “All you have to do is go to PEGTV and you will see that they blatantly ignored the Open Meeting Law.”
The discussion of the budget prior to the May 28 meeting was done in a private meeting that was not duly warned, Fillioe claimed, making it an illegal meeting.
“The Open Meeting Law is there to protect the public,” he said. “I just feel these guys want to do what they want.”
He cited another instance when he said the board violated the Open Meeting Law by not including public comment on the agenda. This prompted an email exchange between members of the community and Select Board.
According to the complaint, Select Board Chairman Devon Fuller sent an email in which he wrote that he was surprised it was a problem.
Fuller went on to say in the email that the board allows public discussion throughout the meeting, not just at the public forum portion.
Also in the complaint, Fillioe alleges that the Select Board “may be or has been conducting business by emails as well.” He does not provide any examples to back up this claim.
Fuller said Fillioe had voiced his concerns to the board, but Fuller said he did not know about the complaint to the attorney general’s office until told by a reporter Friday.
In response to the allegation about the May 28 meeting, Fuller said the missing “budget” item on the agenda was a mistake when the agenda was written up. He said the board rectified the mistake at the beginning of the meeting when it approved the agenda.
“It was a mistake,” Fuller said. “It was not best practice (but) technically it was correct. We have the right to add to the agenda.”
As to the allegation of omitting public comment, Fuller said it was a special meeting to discuss very specific items. He said that because the meeting was about budget discussion with public discussion throughout, a specific agenda item for public comment was unwarranted.
“We have since changed that,” Fuller said, adding that public comment will always be on the agenda in the future..
As for the allegation of email communications among board members, the chairman said members do communicate through email, which are all collected in a separate email as a public record. He said the board tried to be as transparent as possible.
“We are all doing the best we can,” Fuller said. “There is no malice.”
Assistant Attorney General William Reynolds said Thursday his office will investigate the complaint. He said a letter will be sent to the Brandon Select Board, giving it an opportunity to respond.
Reynolds said it will take a couple of weeks before a decision is made by his office.