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Gill-Montague Regional Schools

Email prompts Open Meeting Law complaint for G-M school committee

TURNERS FALLS — Both sides may have broken the Open Meeting Law in an out-of-committee disagreement over the handling of the summer meeting schedule.

At issue is an email exchange between Gill-Montague Regional School Committee member Sandra Brown and Chairwoman Joyce Phillips.

Following a committee meeting last month, Brown sent Phillips an email criticizing her announcement that there would be no July meetings as a failure to collaborate with the committee. All members, the superintendent and the committee secretary were copied on the message. Brown closed with a request that no one respond, so as not to violate the Open Meeting Law.

Phillips, who did respond and subsequently consulted the school district’s lawyer, said that in Russell Dupere’s opinion both Brown’s initial email and her response violated the Open Meeting Law, although neither seriously, because communication between members outside of meetings should be limited to housekeeping matters.

Phillips said she felt she was being reprimanded in the open email and that she was following the pattern of recent years in scheduling no meetings in July, a month popular for vacations, and that no one had raised any objections in the May meeting.

The situation engendered some disagreement.

Member Marjorie Levenson said she resented the chair “using her position as a bully pulpit.

“Instead of slapping each other in the face, why don’t we just move on?” Levenson said.

“If you stop, it will end,” Phillips said.

Member Jennifer Waldron said Brown could simply have called Phillips and requested a discussion of the schedule.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office is the final arbiter of what is and is not a violation of the Open Meeting Law.

Later in the meeting, the committee revisited the July schedule, with consensus leaning toward a meeting.

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

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