Open Meeting Law Complaint January 8, 2020
PDF link and text on this page. Also video of the meeting, response to complaint forthcoming and timestamp video links to specific points and issues of video.

PDF Version of OML Complaint Jan 2, 2020

This is the response to the complaint. It was at the town Clerks office 102 Vance Hill Road at 8AM on January 21, 2020.

As usual and expected the Selectboard voted “no wrong doing ” on the allegations.

Date and location of alleged violation

Jan 8 ,2020 8AM TOWNNEWPORT VT SELECTBOARD MEETING at the clerk’s office, 102 Vance hill Road Newport Center VT

Complaint against the public body of Newport Center,Vermont for alleged violation of Vermont’s Open Meeting Laws. Pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 314 any person aggrieved by a violation of that law must provide the public body with written notice that alleges specific violations and requests a specific cure of such violations

Complainant’s Name:
Barry Sahagian
46 Vance Hill Road
Newport Center, VT 05857

Public body that is alleged to have violated the law:
Select Board: Steve Barrup, Gerry Waterman, Richard Gossilin

Complaint and Statute

I allege that my right to speak, participate and get accountability on town expenses at an open meeting has been violated.  I was asking about the right to comment and ask questions at a budget meeting for the yearly expenditures to be voted on in March 2020 Town Meeting. They did not respond to my questions, simply ignored me. They refused to be accountable.
(See below for details and video transcription of Jan 8 meeting.)

(Cite as: 1 V.S.A. § 311)
§ 311. Declaration of public policy; short title
(a) In enacting this subchapter, the legislature finds and declares that public commissions, boards, and councils and other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business and are accountable to them pursuant to Chapter I, Article VI of the Vermont Constitution.
(See below for details and video transcription of Jan 8 meeting.)

Cure:
Schedule a meeting to go over what was covered at the Jan 8, 2020 meeting with a clear understanding of how questions and comments of the people will be handled by the Selectboard.
(See below for details and explanation)
I feel intimidated and confused on whether I can question and comment  at meetings discussing money, contracts etc. It appears that according to the selectmen that since the Jan 8 meeting was a budget meeting that we are not allowed to comment or question the items. This most  evident from the video footage in which several times the selectmen said “this is a budget meeting” when I tried to speak.

Typically what is done in cases like this after each item is addressed, the Selectboard chair would ask people if they have questions or comments.  This would be a reasonable protocall. There now is no structure and nothing mentioned on the agenda of time alloted for comments and questions. We need a clear understanding on how this type of meeting will address the peoples questions and comments on how the money is being handled by the selectmen whom we entrust are accountable.

Transcript of Jan 8, 2008 Selectboard budget meeting

On Jan 8, 2020  there was a Selectboard meeting called for discussion of yearly expenses which I attended.  I did video tape this and for the sake of clarity I will reference to with time stamps on what I am about to say in this complaint.

21:14  there was discussion of Selectmen salaries.  I commented and asked a question on the selectmen salaries.
22:01 after I spoke for 57 seconds Selectman Jerry Waterman interrupted me and said:
Jerry  “Let’s move on we are not going into that today this is a budget meeting and we need to get this done”.
Barry   “I replied this is an open meeting and I have the right to speak”
22:16 Selectman Rick Gosselin  – Rick Gosselin ” It’s an open meeting, but it’s for budget”
22:23 Barry “It’s an open meeting which means people can discuss”
Steve Barrup Selectboard Chair : “The Selectboard has decided to keep it the same”. ( I did not hear the selectboard approve the motion)
22:34 Barry – ” the whole issue is my right to speak at an open meeting is being violated, is this your company?”
22:46 Rick Gosselin – Don’t talk to me like I am a third Grader.”.. ( argument persuade for a few moments  Rick – ” let’s move on”
22:57 Steve Barrup continued discussion
40:04 Barry Tried to discuss the law about the right to speak at open meetings  speaking to Rick Goselin.
Barry ” this is an open meeting like any other meeting”
Rick “Let’s just drop it”
Barry” I think we should discuss it”  “You are under the assumption that people are not allowed to ask questions at these meetings?  The thing is that this is an open meeting like any other meeting.”
40:12 Rick  “we are here for budget let’s go through that.
Barry  “do you mean people can not ask questions at this meeting? This is not an executive meeting.  So is it ok that I ask questions about an expense? Is it ok?”

41:09 Barry – I was ignored, the question was not answered on whether we can ask questions at a budget meeting, The Selectboard continued discussion while I was speaking.  I was not allowed to continue.

Barry Sahagian