LUDLOW, Vt. – The Two Rivers Supervisory Union Board held a special meeting Thursday, May 16 to publicly address a May 7 complaint filed by local news outlet The Chester Telegraph who accused the TRSU Board of violating Vermont’s Open Meeting Law when they went into executive session at the end of their May 2 meeting.
The special meeting was attended by board members largely through electronic means with board member Dan Buckley attending in person at the TRSU offices; but with board chair Paul Ozechowski participating from his office in Middlebury; and board members Joe Fromberger, Kate Lamphere, and Fred Marin participating from a separate board meeting location. The latter four all attending via Zoom teleconferencing.
Ozechowski acknowledged that they did violate the Open Meeting Law saying, “We cited the executive session wrong.” He went on to give the exact wording that should have been used which included the wording, “after making a specific finding that premature general public knowledge would clearly place the public body or person involved, at a substantial disadvantage.”
The reasons for going into executive session must fit specific criteria, generally when negotiations for contracts or other arbitration is happening that would put the employee or board at a disadvantage if revealed in a public session.
“So we did violate the meeting law and I apologize for that,” Ozechowski said.
The violating board must offer a means to remedy the violation, in this case the board made a motion to participate in training for both Open Meeting Law and Executive Session criteria at their next June 6 meeting. The board further agreed that the training would be offered for all the boards to attend: TRSU, Green Mountain Unified School District, and Ludlow Mount Holly Unified Union School District.
Buckley went on to criticize TRSU administrators that the TRSU Board had to “jury rig” together a meeting in order to respond within the required 10 days when that should have happened earlier if the administration was fully aware of the need to respond publicly. “Someone dropped the ball,” he said.
Despite the acknowledgement that they had violated the Open Meeting Law, the board maintained that it was the citation for the meeting that was improper and not the meeting itself. “The subject was proper, the citation of the statute was improper. That’s the only difference,” said Fromberger.
The next board TRSU board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 6 at 6 p.m. The current location is at the TRSU Roost but may change to accommodate all district board members.