Open meeting law complaint alleges improper voting by Select Board Town Counsel says board complied with state guidelines
By Theresa Knapp
On April 25, 2022, resident Elizabeth Reilly filed an Open Meeting Law Complaint Form with the Office of the Attorney General alleging the Hopedale Select Board did not act properly within executive session.
In her complaint, Reilly stated, “Town has been involved in litigation with [Grafton Upton Railroad] over an important watershed property for over a year. With 2 weeks left to go before an election, the Select Board voted in executive session 2:1 to drop the Town’s appeal prior to any public discussion. There was no notice of “votes will be taken” in the agenda. This is a known hot issue in town and it is no secret that residents would have wanted to discuss this issue before any votes were taken. This vote did not need to take place in closed session as it would not have been detrimental to their legal position to vote in public session. Having the vote to drop the appeal in open session would not hurt the Boards [sic] position in any pending litigation because the litigation would no longer be pending. Two of the board members have been threatening to drop this appeal for weeks despite resident’s [sic] opposition (& votes at town meetings). It is of great concern to many residents that this happened behind closed doors.”
In her complaint, Reilly asked that the Select Board “Delay the filing of the rescinding of the appeal, invalidate the vote taken to drop the appeal in the illegal executive session, and hold a public session to allow for any resident with questions or concerns to address this board.”
Hopedale’s town counsel, Brian Riley with KP Law, replied to the AG’s office saying, “The Complaint cites no violation of the Open Meeting Law. The Board complied with G.L. c.30A, Section 21(b) when it voted to enter executive session to discuss litigation strategy…[T]he Open Meeting Law itself authorizes a board to take votes during an executive session…Since the Complaint fails to allege any violation of the Open Meeting Law, no remedial action is required.”
Town Administrator Diana Schindler summarized the issue at the Select Board’s May 9 meeting, noting Town Counsel had ruled the board “did not have a violation…we had the right to go into an executive session for litigation strategy.”