By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – After over 100 citizens signed a letter of petition in December citing concerns with open meeting laws and public records, Town Administrator John Coderre discussed those concerns with the Board of Selectmen at its Jan. 28 meeting.
The letter was initiated by Mitch Cohen and signed by 122 other residents.
“We write with substantial concern regarding the Town’s inconsistent following of the Open Meeting Law and Public Records Law,” stated the letter in its opening line.
Related to this concern, the letter noted, is that the posting of meeting minutes and agendas has not been done “in a timely manner.” The citizens noted they were also concerned with how the Board of Selectmen appointments are made.
Other concerns included: encouraging citizen involvement by advertising all open positions; recording and broadcasting all public meetings via Northborough’s public access television; and hosting Open Meeting Law training.
“What I thought I would do is try to put together a little bit of information to frame up some of these issues so you know where we stand on a few things,” Coderre stated at the Jan. 28 meeting. “I think there are a few things that are going to require action by the board.”
“The long and the short of it as we look down the list, and I had the Town Clerk go through everything and basically do an audit of where we are and what became evident to me was some administrative oversight in terms of approved minutes not getting posted up on the website,” he added.
Coderre said he has rectified this through the Town Clerk who will watch to make sure that minutes are getting posted. He did say that it wasn’t a violation of the Open Meeting Law but it is a good practice.
Coderre reminded the board that appointment made by the board is its policy and that they may want to visit that at a subsequent meeting.
Relevant to public access television, which is under negotiation for renewal, Coderre noted that the industry is changing and cable subscriptions are down. There is uncertainty of its future, he said, adding that it is not free and the budget does not allow for coverage of every single meeting.
“We’ve offered Open Meeting Law training in the past and most recently with the town of Southborough…it is something we take very seriously… but here’s the key, it’s up to the individual,” Coderre said.
He also stated that no one takes transparency “more seriously” than the board, his staff and himself. The evidence is in the award winning budget, he noted, as well as “the clean audits and the Annual Town Report.”
“These are things that we do on a day to day basis that are important to us and I think that we are very good at and we will continue to focus on these things,” Coderre added.
The board agreed to put the policy for making Board of Selectmen appointments on their next agenda for review.
Cohen was in attendance at the meeting. He said that he is pleased that the issue of board appointments will be addressed but the number of committees that don’t post their minutes on the website is concerning.
“I think this is a first good step. I think that there are a number of issues that were addressed,” he said.