TRSU boards face additional Open Meeting Law violation accusations

Open Meeting
Four TRSU board members attend Open Meeting Law training. Photo by Sharon Huntley

LUDLOW, Vt. – Despite recently admitting to Open Meeting Law violations, an Open Meeting Law training session at the recent Two Rivers Supervisory Union Board meeting was poorly attended by Board members. The Board also didn’t address a second letter of complaint received Tuesday, June 4.

The TRSU met Thursday, June 6, three weeks after they convened for a special meeting during which they admitted violating Open Meeting Law in their May 2 meeting, responding to a May 7 complaint filed by Chester Telegraph.

During that special meeting May 16, Board Chair Paul Ozechowski admitted an error had been made, apologized for the violation, and the Board agreed to arrange for training at their June 6 meeting on the subject of Open Meeting Law. 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.

Despite a change in venue that could accommodate a larger attendance, only three of six regular members from the TRSU were in attendance for the training, although one alternate member did attend and TRSU board member Dan Buckley did arrive later, but only after the training had ended. No additional members from either GMUSD or LMHUUSD were in attendance. According to the TRSU office, no other Open Meeting Law training sessions have been scheduled since the expectation was that all boards would attend the June 6 session.

Sue Ceglowski, director of Legal & Policy Services from the Vermont School Board Association, was in attendance at the June 6 meeting to lead the training, which consisted of 34 PowerPoint slides and lasted about 30 minutes. She made a point of saying that she would not comment on any specific motions or actions taken by the Board in the past, saying, “Any questions regarding specifics should be directed toward your legal counsel.”

The TRSU and Superintendent Meg Powden did not address a second letter of complaint submitted by Cynthia Prairie, publisher of the Chester Telegraph June 4 to Powden, Orzechowski, and Joe Fromberger, Board Chair of GMUSD. This second letter identified nine meetings from September 2018 through May 2019, involving TRSU, GMUSD, or LMHUUSD boards, in which they allege Vermont’s Open Meeting Law was violated. The letter also suggested that business conducted as a result of these executive sessions would need to be held in public, ratified, or voided. The TRSU had 10 days from June 4 to respond.

TRSU Legal Counsel Chris Leopold communicated to the TRSU office Monday, June 10, recommending that each Board come up with a plan for “correction of errors” related to this second letter. That item has been added to the agenda for a LMHUUSD meeting scheduled Wednesday, June 12 at 6 p.m.

TRSU board has piggybacked onto that meeting with a 5:30 p.m. special meeting of their own, both at the Ludlow Elementary School Band room. A special GMUSD meeting has also been scheduled for Thursday, June 13 at 6 p.m. at Green Mountain High School library to address the same issue.

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