327WVN #287: SOS holds closed meeting with officials
- Feb 25, 2009Dear Wayland Voter,
The political activist group SOSWayland invited the school superintendent and other town officials to a closed meeting at the home of its leader and turned other residents away.
Email invitations to the Feb. 24 meeting at Lisa Valone's house were leaked to others, including some WVN readers and Board of Selectmen candidate Alan Reiss.
At least one current selectman was unaware of the meeting until the night before it was held.
When WVN contributor Betty Salzberg showed up at Valone's High Rock Road home, she was told she couldn't enter because the meeting was open only to active SOS volunteers because of space limitations.
WVN counted 46 cars and about 60 people, most of them women who appeared to be in their 30s and 40s.
In addition to Superintendent Gary Burton, those invited to give presentations were Board of Selectmen Chairman Michael Tichnor, Finance Committee Chairman Sam Peper, School Committee Vice Chair Deb Cohen, Planning Board Chairman Bill
Steinberg, Town Administrator Fred Turkington and Lea Anderson, chair of the High School Building Committee.
Invitations said the discussion would include the Town Center project, the possibility of a new high school and a $1.9 million debt exclusion that will be voted in April.
The private nature of the meeting was brought out the night before, when at a regular Board meeting Selectman Doug Leard asked Tichnor about reports of a meeting scheduled the next day.
Tichnor appeared surprised, then replied that it was an SOS meeting and he had been invited to make a presentation as chairman of his Board.
But when Leard asked whether Tichnor was representing the selectmen, Tichnor said, "No, I was asked personally,"
"Was the public invited?" Leard asked.
"No, not that I'm aware," Tichnor replied. "It's a private meeting."
You can see the exchange in a video posted on YouTube by Reiss, who lost his seat on the Board in 2008. SOS backed his opponent.
Reiss, former state Rep. Sue Pope and Tom Fay are running for seats being vacated by Leard and Bill Whitney.
When Reiss asked permission to attend the Feb. 24 meeting though he hadn't received an invitation, Valone told him in an email that space limitations made it necessary to turn him down.
Reiss suggested to Town Administrator Turkington that the meeting be held in the town building where space wouldn't be a problem. Turkington replied in an email:
"As for your suggestion for another venue when residents could hear remarks and pose questions to town officials, there are numerous opportunities including public hearings on the budget, the upcoming annual Town Meeting warrant hearing...and
the annual Town Meeting..."
"We both know Wayland's citizens take pride in our considerable reputation for responsiveness to citizen concerns for process and transparency in town government," Turkington wrote.
Reiss objected to town employees, Turkington and Burton, attending a closed meeting during the working day. Turkington said he works long and sometimes irregular hours and would be happy to participate in other meetings if asked.
SOS, which has been registered as a political action committee, devotes time and money to getting out the vote for property tax overrides, which have succeeded in Wayland five times in the past seven years.
Though SOS says that Save Our Services represents a comprehensive mission, recent emails mentioned only the school budget. It has shown little or no interest in other things that directly affect taxpayers, such as Advanced Life Support emergency
service, questions about equitable property assessments, an impending water surcharge, this year's 30 percent increase in landfill fees and voters' calls for fewer overrides and more stringent controls on town spending.
-- Michael Short
For more background on SOS see WVN Newsletter #245:
WAYLAND-WESTON-SUDBURY CIVICS BEE
Sunday March 1, 2-4:30 p.m., Large Hearing Room, Town Building.
Teams consisting of adults and students will compete for a trophy from the League of Women Voters, answering questions on U.S. history the Constitution and federal government.
Audience participation. Refreshments. Live WayCAM telecast.
For details see:
Contact: Sandy Coy, 653-6014, sandycoy@...
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor