Framingham School Committee’s Attorney Says Committee Did Not Violate Open Meeting Law

FRAMINGHAM – It is the position of the Framingham School Committee that “no violation of the open meeting law occurred” at the October 16 meeting, according to the attorney for the Framingham School Committee.

A letter was sent to School Committee member Michelle Brosnahan yesterday December 4 with the official response from the Framingham School Committee..

Brosnahan filed an open meeting law violation complaint last month.

The School Committee discussed the complaint filed by one of its members, at its last meeting.

Brosnahan now has 30 days to appeal the Framingham School Committee’s decision to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.

Framingham Source contacted Brosnahan to see if she plans to appeal, she did not response as of the posting of this report.

Of note, the current 7-member School Committee will cease to exist on December 31, 2017. On January 1, a new 9-member City of Framingham School Committee will be sworn in. Brosnahan was not elected to that new School Committee.

Nathan Kaitz, an attorney with Morgan, Brown, & Joy LLP in Boston wrote the opinion and sent the response to Brosnahan on Monday, December 4.

“It is the position of the Framingham School Committee that no violation of the open meeting law occurred,” Kaitz wrote to conclude his correspondence to Brosnahan.

Kaitz also noted “obviously, you must have made some error on the date when you signed the complaint. The complaint was received by the School Committee on November 14, 2017.”

“In your complaint, you complain about some conduct that occurred at the October 16, 2016 meeting of the School Committee. The conduct of which you complain occurred in open session so I do not read your complaint as alleging an open meeting law violation at the School Committee meeting of October 16. Rather, you apparently allege that as many as four (4) members of the School Committee -Heather Connolly, Jim Kelly, Rick Finlay, and Scott Wadlin- met in advance of the October 16 School Committee meeting to prepare for the conduct which took place in open session on October 16. However, you have only conjecture that such a “meeting” took place. And your conjecture is, in fact, inaccurate. There was no such “meeting” of these School Committee members before the October 16 School Committee meeting- either in person, on the telephone or via email, text or some other electronic means,” wrote Kaitz.

“With respect to the motion made by Mr. Finlay, he did contact Ms. Connolly by telephone late in the day on October 16 and told her that he planned to raise the warrant question (Ms. Hugo’s previous refusal to sign the warrant) during the “Bills and Payroll” portion of the agenda. Ms. Connolly did not know that Mr. Finlay was going to make a motion nor did she know the nature of the motion that he was going to make. There was no Quorum, no deliberation between them nor any “meeting” in violation of the Open Meeting Law,” wrote Kaitz.

“Regarding your motion to table, there was no second to your motion. Accordingly, the Chair did not gavel or require a vote,” wrote Kaitz.

“While Mr. Finlay’s motion was not on the agenda of the October 16 School Committee meeting, motions are not required to be posted as part of the agenda. Indeed, motions can be made or changed at the meeting based upon the tenor of the discussion taking place,” wrote Kaitz.

“While several school committee members- Mr. Finlay, Mr. Kelly, and Ms. Hugo – had a packet of documents with them at the October 16 school committee meeting, they or their lawyers had made a request for those documents prior to the meeting. Ms. Hugo and her lawyer received copies of the documents at or before an October 2 meeting with school administrators concerning the warrant issue,” wrote Kaitz.

 

“Neither School Committee Chair Connolly or school administrators knew that the warrant packet of documents might become relevant to the October 16 meeting. All members of the School Committee were given a copy of the warrant packet of documents shortly after October 16 in anticipation of a public hearing on the issue on December 12,” wrote Kaitz.

On November 28, the Framingham School Committee votes 5-2 to not hold a public hearing with Hugo. The vote was 5-2. Heather Connolly and Jim Kelly voted to hold the hearing. Brosnahan, Hugo, Finlay, Wadland, and Cheryl Gordon voted to not have the hearing.

“Finally, the tape of the October 16 meeting was made available to the public as is always the case after an open session of the School Committee. Making the tape public fosters transparency as required by the Open Meeting Law,” wrote Kaitz.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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