Wayland selectmen on Monday night were mum in responding to a resident’s Open Meeting Law complaint.
Selectmen, overall, said little in response to resident and Wayland Patch blogger Kim Reichelt, who recently filed a complaint alleging the selectmen did not clearly state the agenda item under which they fired former town administrator Fred Turkington on Aug. 26.
Selectmen Chairman Doug Leard told Reichelt, during a hearing on the complaint that the board had received a deadline extension to Sept. 27 to respond to her complaint. He said selectmen would respond to her complaint at its Monday, Sept. 23 meeting. Selectmen have hired an attorney, Robert Ritchie, to handle the Open Meeting Violation, according to the selectmen's office.
Reichelt took selectmen to task saying they had committed an “egregious” violation of the law when they used a vague agenda item, which indicated selectmen would discuss Turkington’s job performance and duties, to terminate his employment. The Open Meeting Law requires public bodies to clearly state agenda items to indicate what will be discussed.
To bolster her case, Reichelt pointed to Selectmen Vice Chairman Tony Boschetto's typed motion to terminate Turkington as evidence that the effort to fire him was pre-planned prior to the meeting.
Reichelt also attempted to gather evidence when she asked Boschetto whether he had shown that motion to an attorney prior to the Aug. 26 termination meeting. Boschetto did not directly answer the question but acknowledged he works with attorneys every day and that if he had legal help he would have to "fire" himself.
Reichelt also criticized selectmen for their immediate response to the complaint, which she said was to meet in executive session (closed to the public) twice to discuss the issue.
“I’m flabbergasted that your response to an Open Meeting Law complaint was to go hide in executive session and have a discussion we can't know about,” Reichelt said. “I find the lack of transparency in this entire process has been a pattern and is disturbing.”
Selectman Joe Nolan said he had opposed discussing the matter in executive session as did Selectman Steve Correia.
“It embarrasses me and I’ve very sorry I’m not able to discuss this with you,” Correia said citing an attorney’s advice not to discuss the matter publicly.
Other selectmen felt the matter should be discussed behind closed doors. During the Sept. 9 selectmen’s meeting, Boschetto said given the “interdependencies” of the complaint and the impact public comments could have on the termination issue, he believed the matter should be discussed in executive session.
To rectify the complaint, Reichelt asked selectmen to acknowledge they broke the law with the vague agenda item and to admit it was an intentional violation. She said she had asked the Attorney General’s Office, which oversees the Open Meeting Law, to impose the maximum penalty for the violation. While she did not specify what that was, the AG’s website states it may impose several penalties, including a maximum $1,000 fine for intentional violations and can even order the reinstatement of terminated employees.
Under the law, Reichelt can file her complaint directly with the Attorney General if selectmen do not settle the issue to her satisfaction. Then, the AG's office would review the issue.