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Did G-M board violate meeting law?

TURNERS FALLS — Two Gill-Montague Regional School Committee members have complained the committee may have violated the open meeting law during an unposted meeting earlier this month.

Other members disagreed and a majority vote struck the discussion from the record at a regular meeting this Tuesday.

Member Marjorie Levenson raised the issue, saying discussion rising to the level of deliberation occurred at a Jan. 3 gathering billed as a training, which is among the exceptions to the open meeting law, which requires meetings be posted in advance and open to the public.

“It is my belief that a training did not take place, a deliberation did and we may have violated the open meeting law,” Levenson said.

Levenson read a statement that a closed, non-posted meeting of a quorum of committee members had met with the school’s business office contractor, The Management Solution, and discussed the upcoming budget process.

“There was also a presentation and discussion of a brief study by Management Solutions of GMRSD per pupil expenditures, an important and controversial issue in our long term planning process,” Levenson said.

“This was not a training for new members on existing policies, rather it was a discussion and development of proposed policies by a quorum of the committee,” Levenson said.

Levenson said a participant suggested members address comments to nonmembers in order to avoid deliberation.

“Evasion tactics suggest that members were aware of the questionable basis of the closed meeting,” Levenson said.

School Committee Chairwoman Joyce Phillips said she had spoken with the district lawyer and they had not violated the law.

“There was no deliberation in people asking questions,” Phillips said.

Phillips said the event was not a closed public meeting but a training session to help members understand a new budget approach.

Member Sandra Brown agreed with Levenson.

“It was a meeting, TMS did a training … and when they were done there was deliberation,” Brown said.

Member Jane Oakes agreed with Phillips that it was only a training.

Levenson said she did not intend to file a formal complaint with the attorney general’s office because she did not want to obstruct the committee but was trying to encourage openness. After hearing about the controversy, The Recorder filed a complaint about the possible open meeting violation to seek clarity on the issue from the attorney general.

Member Michael Langknecht said Levenson’s statements did constitute a complaint but were not made in the proper fashion and therefore itself in violation of the open meeting law.

Langknecht said Levenson made insinuations against individuals who were not given proper warning to request discussion in closed session.

“I’m inclined to make a motion that the whole thing be struck from the record of the meeting,” Langknecht said.

A motion made and seconded, the committee voted 7-2 to strike the discussion from the record, with Levenson and Brown opposed.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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