Delay of public session questioned

BELLOWS FALL, Vt. – A special trustee meeting on June 21 to review the FY 2018 budget and possibly make changes prior to a revote on July 20 was overshadowed by two executive sessions. The meeting was warned to include one executive session, which was extended to two, and occurred prior to the public portion of the meeting.

The first executive session, in which a disciplinary or dismissal action against a public officer or employee, started minutes after the 3:00 pm meeting began and the second session involving union negotiations was added. Several members of the public, including village employees, stood in the alleyway outside the lower theatre for approximately two hours while waiting for the executive sessions to conclude.

Several people, including village employees, were visibly upset at the delay of the agenda. A villager told The Shopper, “There’s no reason why the meeting that was warned at 3 p.m. went right into an executive session. The meeting concluded at 7:20 p.m. over four hours after the warned time.”

Villager Jim Mitchell, who brought the petition for revote to the town, stated that the board had irritated those present with the lengthy executive sessions.

During a break between the two sessions, Jonathan Wright stated, “We have been waiting outside for two hours. Can the budget portion of the meeting be rescheduled?”

Mickle stated, “I anticipated that the first executive session would be maybe 45 minutes and the second one 30 minutes. I was very wrong and had no idea of the scope of the sessions. I made a mistake and I am terribly sorry.”

Trustee Stefan Golec added that while the wait was unfortunate, “the attorney isn’t here for free and the clock is ticking.” Golec clarified that the municipal manager informed the public at a June16 meeting that the first agenda item at the July 21 meeting would be an executive session.

Villager Deborah Wright stated, “This is a meeting of the board not a meeting of the public and we cannot anticipate how long the executive sessions will take.” She added that the trustees were well within its rights to act on items brought forth to the board. The session concerning the disciplinary matter was upheld and no action was taken on the union negotiation.

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