Resources Legal and other

Part of the inspiration of this website was the lack of transparency and accountability of the town officials. I guess I understand that most of Vermont is a bit behind on technology which creates an opportunity for this to exist. This an not an isolated issue of town officials not being transparent on issues and decisions.

New amendments have been initiated by the State of Vermont and the Federal Government on two laws in the last year to strengthen their effectiveness…

“Open Meeting”
This includes mandatory regulation for how the board and town meetings are to be conducted.

“Public Records Act”
This makes it mandatory for all of government including a small town like Newport Town to allow access any records in their possession, free of charge to any resident upon request.

So laws by themselves do not insure that there will be compliance..So if you wish to use these laws, there is a possibility the officials may not comply and they most likely will not simply deny you access. They may agree and provide different documents or provide some type of vague excuse. My first attempt at this was with a selectman who was most agreeable to act on my request. He asked that I call him the following morning to make an appointment. At the same time he warned he was “having trouble with his phone system” I called and left a message and his phone system sounded to me like an answering machine..needless to say I never heard back form him.

I would like to remind what ever official might read this… that non compliance could lead to consequence, perhaps a compliant to the Vermont Secretary of State….I would only use this as a last resort of course and I would and advise others to give any official every consideration to respond before doing this.

Initially I spoke to a lawyer at the Vt Secretary of States Office to make I sure all my actions on this website were in order. He also advised that the Secretary of State takes these matters of the “Open Meeting” and “Public Records Act” most seriously, especially at this time given that the amendments are fresh on the books (2014). He also advised that it may be difficult to get compliance of these lawes from the officials. They are simply not used to being accountable. He advised “be insistent, if you do not get compliance there is always help at the Secretary of States office.

So if you should choose to seek documents using the Public Records Act, compliance of the Open Meeting Law, or explanation from the town officials of any town.. it is the town officials obligation to respond… you would simply be exercising your rights much the same when the town clerk initiates a late fee on overdue tax payments or other…we pay this because it is the law. We expect the same from our officials.

Below are links and videos for more information

This is more information easy to read and understand.

Washington Coalition for open Government

The link below is a detailed explanation of the “Open Meeting” law posted by the “Vermont League of Cities and Towns” (VLCT).
Newport Town is a member of this organization at a cost of 5,000 a year… Perhaps they should have a refresher to update their obligation to comply.

VLCT open meeting law

Here is another great resource..

VERMONT’S PUBLIC RECORDS LAW