WVN ALERT: Special session on meeting law complaints
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The selectmen called a special meeting for Monday Aug. 16 to discuss two complaints that they violated the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.
The announcement came Thursday about five hours after WVN posted Newsletter #364, including a video link, summarizing an allegation by former Selectman Linda Segal that the Board of Selectmen decided on appointments to boards in secret and later discussed those decisions outside a publicly posted meeting.
That complaint, filed on Aug. 5, became known to the public when it was brought up at the Aug. 9 Board of Selectmen meeting.
The selectmen will also discuss another complaint, also filed on Aug. 5 but not made public before. In that complaint attorney and former Selectman George Harris says that the selectmen violated the Open Meeting Law by repeatedly going into executive (closed) session to discuss a lawsuit by the developer of the proposed Town Center mixed-use project on Route 20 against the Wayland Historic District Commission.
The Middlesex district attorney rejected a similar argument earlier, but on July 1 the attorney general took responsibility for enforcing the law. In his new complaint Harris quotes statutes and case law to argue that the DA decided the matter incorrectly.
The complaint quotes Massachusetts law declaring that among exceptions to the OML are executive sessions to "discuss strategy with respect to...litigation if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the...LITIGATING POSITION OF THE PUBLIC BODY AND THE CHAIR SO DECLARES (emphasis added)..."
Because the Board of Selectmen is not a party to the suit, Harris argues, it has no litigating position and therefore can't meet in closed session.
Harris asks that all minutes of closed sessions involving the Twenty Wayland-Historic District Commission action be made public and any future discussions be held in open meetings announced in advance.
In addition to outlining the allegations of secret decision-making, WVN Newsletter #364 summarizes the contentious relations between the Commission and the selectmen over the Town Center project. See:
Twenty Wayland filed suit on July 30, 2009 challenging the Certificate of Hardship issued by the Commission; the matter hasn't been resolved. The Commission and the Board met on Aug. 9 in a tense session that highlighted strongly held views on both sides. The only agreement was that Twenty Wayland, the Commission and lawyers for both sides would meet on Sept. 1.
Monday's Board of Selectmen meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. with only the two Open Meeting Law complaints on the agenda. WayCAM wil televise it live.