Weston Conservation Commission moves to rectify open meeting law violations

Magicpiano (CC 2.0).</p> " data-image-caption="<p>The Weston Village Store. Photo by <a href=https://vtdigger.org/2022/07/08/weston-conservation-commission-moves-to-rectify-open-meeting-law-violations/"https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Village_Store,_Weston,_Vermont.jpg">Magicpiano (CC 2.0).</p> " data-medium-file="https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Weston-Village-Store-300x200.jpeg" data-large-file="https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Weston-Village-Store-610x406.jpeg" width="610" height="406" src='data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg%20xmlns=%22http://www.w3.org/2000/svg%22%20viewBox=%220%200%20610%20406%22%3E%3C/svg%3E' data-src="https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Weston-Village-Store-610x406.jpeg" alt="" class="lazyload wp-image-397595" data-srcset="https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Weston-Village-Store-610x406.jpeg 610w, https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Weston-Village-Store-300x200.jpeg 300w, https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Weston-Village-Store-125x83.jpeg 125w, https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Weston-Village-Store-768x511.jpeg 768w, https://vtdigger.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Weston-Village-Store.jpeg 960w" data-sizes="(max-width: 610px) 100vw, 610px" />
The Weston Village Store in the heart of the Windsor County town. The town's conservation commission failed to post its meeting agendas in advance or to make virtual meetings accessible to the public. Photo by Magicpiano (CC 2.0).

The Weston Conservation Commission passed five motions Thursday intended to cure violations of Vermont’s open meeting law.

Commission member Ken Hall brought the violations to the body’s attention in May, resulting in a series of back-and-forth letters between Hall and the commission’s co-chairs, Andrew Harper and Deborah Hennessey. According to Hall, the violations included failing to make virtual meetings accessible to the public and failing to publicly post meeting notices, agendas and minutes. 

Harper and Hennessey acknowledged the violations Thursday during a commission meeting. 

“We do acknowledge that some procedural errors were made this past year with regard to the agendas for the Weston Conservation Commission,” Henessey said. “During Covid, we did not post agendas at the Weston Post Office. Also apparently as of Jan. 18, 2022, as of that time, the electronic link should have gone on the agenda to permit public attendance. Our actions were neither intentional, nor willful. There was no malicious intent.”

The open meeting law states that violations are to be brought to a public body’s attention no later than one year after they occur, meaning the commission is responsible for rectifying any violations that occurred less than a year ago. Specifically, the body sought to cure violations from September 2021, October 2021 and February 2022. 

Commission members voted to accept that the violations related to the meetings — failure to post agendas in advance and minutes promptly afterward — were inadvertent and to enter the missing minutes and agendas into the public record. The commission also ratified the minutes from these meetings and approved any actions taken by the body within the last year. 

Hall introduced a motion intended to prevent future open meeting law violations. 

“I make a motion that all meetings of the Weston Conservation Commission are open to the public,” he said. “Agendas shall be posted and made publicly available prior to regular and special meetings as required by statute, and in the case of meetings held remotely shall include any instructions necessary to allow public participation. Minutes will be taken of all meetings to be posted and made publicly available as required by statute. All agendas and meetings shall be made part of the public record available for public inspection as required by statute.”

The commission unanimously passed the motion. 

After discussing ways to distribute the language of Vermont’s open meeting law to every commission member, the body voted to find that the open meeting law violations had been rectified.

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Jenna Peterson

About Jenna

Jenna Peterson is a student at the University of Southern California, where she is majoring in journalism and political science. She is news editor at the Daily Trojan at USC and was an editor of the Burlington High School student newspaper when it received a special New England Newspaper & Press Association award for successfully fighting a censorship effort by school administrators.

Email: [email protected]

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