Town Meeting Comments

A discussion on the articles on the town meeting, lets share thoughts on this. Perhaps some would make better choices if a little information was revealed.

Public Records Act

A Public Utility tool for Transparent Government. Use it!
What is the Public Records Act? Why is it so important? So you ask yourself when you get a increase on water bill. Your property taxes go up. What is our town paying the employees. Why and what did they pay contractors for that useless community solar garden that does nothing for the community? That’s a cute little word. Obviously this cute little word worked because the town voted this $250.000 project in despite being in debt and overlooking other essential projects like the failing public water supply. Who benefited from this contract? Certainly the contractor!

Would you like to take a closer look at the contracts possibly? The disbursements related to this contract? Most items like this go on in the background in a town in violation of the open meeting laws then to ad insult to injury amounts spent on contractors and financial details of the towns business is locked away in secret file cases locked and guarded by the administrators of the town…

Open Meeting Law

The section of our website to explore the “Open Meeting Laws or commonly referred to as the OML.
Please be our guest and check out the videos and references included in this section of the website.

For the People Blog

All People Welcome to this blog from anywhere at anytime Let’s Talk

We know that our small town or city government is organized of course. They have meetings and discussions regularly. We know that our democracy is “for the people, by the people”. The “by the people” part of this equation has become challenged. It appears that this has been changing to “by the Selectmen, for the Selectmen”. They are ruling the towns across the nation. Ruling, not serving. The people in my little town have a blend of unconditional trust and fear of the town officials and don’t the selectmen know this. They vote on increases in utilities and taxes and contract projects that seem to just pop up out of nowhere. They have meetings to vote these items in that no one knows or is informed about. If you do happen to find about one and attend, you are likely to not get heard or should you ask questions, they will either avoid them altogether or answer in a vague and deceptive way. In our little town the Selectboard and the town clerk have been in office for 20 years and are very skilled in keeping the public out of the picture while they do exactly as they want.

One of my first experiences in a select board meeting, I was speaking out which turned out to a heated debate over an issue with a selectman. In general this is pretty normal in government we see our legislators at it all the time on video. When the meeting ended while I was heading home, a resident stopped me and remarked on the debate I had at the meeting. He said “You better watch what you are doing you will get arrested” Incredible! Incredible! My towns people fear the selectmen to the point of being in fear of speaking out in an opening meeting!!! Like North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Libya. The selectmen are not serving the public, they are ruling with an iron hand. It is commonly discussed in my town of the intimidation that the selectboard use at meetings. The attendance at these meetings as you might expect is minimal leaving the Selectboard to do as they please.

In 2014 our Federal and State government has amended two laws The “Open Meeting Law” and “The “Public Records Act”. These amendments put in place to help balance the peoples rights in our democracy of which has been attacked by local governments Select Boards in particular who have chosen to rule instead of serve the people.

This blog a place for the People to meet and discuss, ask questions about and how to use these laws to better their local governments. Laws in themselves do not make change, there has to be an awareness of these laws, compliance and action taken for non compliance.

Although this website originally created for the tiny town of Newport Center VT I invite anyone from anywhere to participate. Although the laws vary slightly from state to state they are basically the same created for the same reason.. to have a more transparent government to give back to the the people … for the people, by the people.

Let the people meet and talk. Lets look at these new laws there will be plenty of resources right here and hopefully a lot of discussion of the experiences of citizens experiences, frustrations, advice, opinion

Response to Denise Daigle

Feb 4th, 2016 Select Board Meeting

At this meeting we were going over some of the Open Meeting laws and Public Records Act. So in the course of our discussion while I had the floor, I mentioned my first experience on a Public Records request with the Town Clerk, Denise Daigle.

She was new to this as well. I asked for bank statements and she said the Selectboard wanted to remove the account numbers from the statements and it would take a day. So anyway I went in the next day to pick them up. I assumed the account numbers had been removed.

I mentioned this experience during the meeting not to criticize. I was pointing out how we were all adjusting to the new laws. She was getting a bit excited and said she never gave me bank statements with account number removed. Steve Barrup took it a little further out and said I was accusing him of falsifying documents. Denise demanded that I produce the Bank statements.. I agreed .. So I went back to my files and I see that she did not give me bank statements. She gave me the check warrants report which looks like a bank statement. When I got them from her, since I did ask for bank statements and told me the select board wanted the account number removed, I assumed that is what she gave me….So I apologize for the confusion on this issue. It all boils down to my original thought on the discussion. We were just getting used to the new laws.

Response to Albert Felker

Select Board Meeting Feb 4th, 2016

In one section of this Video, There was issue taken by Albert on the fact that I considered actions taken by Select Chair Steven Barrup as gross non compliance of Open Meeting Law and Public records Act at the Nov 7th, 2015 Selectboard Meeting.

The discussion grew heated and Albert argued that my opinion “gross non compliance” was severe. He demanded that I make a statement on this. Steven Barrup also agreed that I should publish my opinion on this.

So on Nov 7th, 2015 I attended my very first Selectboard meeting in Newport Center VT. There was a civil engineer on the agenda to speak at the meeting. Ernest Choquette, myself, my wife Jayne and two or three other residents were in attendance.

We were clearly not included in participation of this meeting. The Selectboard and Denise Daigle were discussing water solutions quietly among themselves. We could not hear what was going on. We were most interested because of the recent increase of the water bill. I interjected and asked who the speaker was, he was not introduced to the residents. We were excluded from executive session (first violation; Article 1 313 1(a).

The mans name was Wayne Eliot and stopped immediately somewhat embarrassed and introduced himself. I then asked questions about some of what I saw drawn on the blackboard. Wayne began to explain and Steve interrupted him and told me. He can not talk to you now because it is costing you (the people taxpayers, 250 an hour to pay the engineer) 2nd violation, 1 312 (h) and 1 314 (a)

Later I asked Denise about the 250 an hour. Denise told me that Steve was only joking with the 250 per hour quote. I confronted Steve in a heated debate at the next Select board with 30 residents present. I asked over and over “why did you lie to me” He finally responded by saying “I know now that I should not have said that. I only said that because it makes engineers and lawyers feel good when you tell them they charge a lot of money”. I thought this odd but was satisfied with his response and respect him for being honest on this. However we were denied to be included in an important issue I attended the meeting specifically for. Previous to this meeting when I received a notice for a water increase, it stated you could get more information by contacting the town clerk Denise Daigle. This I did and she told me if I wanted more information I would have to attend the Nov 7, 2015. To the date of this letter I have still not gotten a clear explanation for details for the increase. In particular the numbers that caused this. The expenses that Steve Barrup referenced to at the Select Board meeting Dec 3, 2015. This is on record video taped at that meeting.

Shortly after Wayne Elliot finished speaking to the select board. He left the meeting. At this time supposedly we (residents) were permitted to speak. Ernest raised his hand to be heard. Steve Barrup in a loud, very loud voice yelled “ERNEST SHUT UP” Steve went on spewing out more angry words something about revisiting previous disagreement they have had in past. He was not allowed to speak.
In my opinion, this was no less that bullying.

(violation 3 – 1 VSA 314 (a)

I felt for Ernest who I barely knew previous to this meeting. I leaned over and whispered to Ernest ” I can fix this” I thought after “did I really say that?” How the hell am I going to fix this? Thus the inspiration to become active in the towns business. Keep in mind all I have stated was witnessed by other residents.

Recap…Since I have started to video tape the select board meetings for the record, Steve Barrup has not acted like that since. So I guess that got fixed . Steve Barrup now treats now treats Ernest with respect. That has been fixed.

Steve did publicly admit he should not have responded to me the way I explained above when I asked to question Wayne Elliot for details. This has been partially fixed.

Ok, for this item there remains a need for a cure to make it whole. That would be that the residents did not get a chance to be heard and to hear Wayne Elliot speak of the details of our water system. At the Feb 4th, 2016 meeting, I took a minute and explained how we have heard a lot from the selectboard and Fred Barrow about the water system details and that they are well informed of course. I really wanted to hear from the experts on this. The select board paid thousands for the Assessment report the Eliot Aldridge prepared for the town on the water system. I suggested to the select board to have Wayne Elliot back so we could get some expert opinion on the matter that Steve Barrup denied us on the Nov 7th meeting..After I asked Steve ignored me and went on to another issue.

This would be the 4th Violation “RIGHT TO KNOW” So Albert, this is what I consider gross non Compliance of Open Meeting law and Freedom of Information Act. You can verify these details from the many residents who witnessed the events.

I hope this helps explain my reason for me considering this a GROSS non compliance. This is only my opinion and the term Gross is a vague term mostly define by opinion.

Barry Sahagian