Former School Committee Member Takes Open Meeting Complaint to Attorney General

FRAMINGHAM – A former Town of Framingham School Committee member is asking the Massachusetts Attorney General to decide if the 7-member Town of Framingham School Committee violated the state’s open meeting law.

Former School Committee member Michelle Brosnahan filed an open meeting law violation complaint in November 2017.

Brosnahan did not win a seat on the new 9-member City of Framingham School Committee.

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

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.

The then-Town of Framingham School Committee discussed the complaint in December.

Brosnahan had 30 days to appeal the Framingham School Committee’s decision to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. She filed the appeal on December 26, 2017.

She presented a letter received from the state’s Attorney General’s office on January 2 to the new City of Framingham School Committee, last night, January 9, during the public comment part of the meeting. She did not read the letter at the meeting.

The Attorney General’s office in its letter to Brosnahan wrote “we will review your complaint and will contact you in the event that we require additional information. We will notify you of our determination following our Office’s review.”

Nathan Kaitz, an attorney with Morgan, Brown, & Joy LLP in Boston wrote the Town of Framingham School Committee’s opinion and sent the response to Brosnahan in December.

“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.

The state’s Attorney General’s office may resolve complaint either with a formal order or informal action.

Formal orders contain a detailed discussion of the alleged violation, applicable legal requirements and amy order remedies allowed under Massachusetts General Laws.

If information action is decided, the Attorney General’s office may attempt to resolve the matter by speaking to the parties, followed by a brief letter noting whether or not there was a violatoon and what remedial action was taken.

The Attorney General’s office can also rule there was no violation.

In her complaint, Brosnahan alleges that four members of the School Committee – specifically former School Committee Chair Heather Connolly, former School Committee member Jim Kelly, School Committee member Rick Finlay, and School Committee member Scott Wadland had copies of documents at that meeting and that she and other members of the 7-member Committee did not.

In Brosnahan’s complaint, wrote “the four people should be fine (sic) and not allowed to run for or participate in any way of being an elected official as this has been a continuos (sic) problem with these four people.”

“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 Wadland- 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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